Why I’m NOT quitting Facebook

FacebookThere’s been a lot of talk recently about Facebook and their privacy issues, as well as their perceived attempts to ‘take over the web’ through their ‘like’ buttons and other integrations with their platform.

As a result, quite a few commentators and influential social media types have announced that they are leaving Facebook, deleting their accounts and removing all the content – which isn’t that easy to do, it turns out.

I’m in no position to criticise what other people do, so I’m not going to – but I’m not going to leave Facebook. I’m not saying the privacy and other stuff isn’t important – it is. The Facebook privacy settings are a usability nightmare, but I do encourage everyone to take a look at theirs and lock them down however tightly you want. Below are my reasons why I’m not quitting:

1. It’s where an awful lot of people are

Facebook is where I connect online with less geeky family and friends. As some of you may have heard, my dad’s on Facebook. He isn’t on Twitter, or any of the other less-known platforms. Likewise with a lot of my friends for whom the internet isn’t the be-all and end-all of their lives (yes, such people do exist). If I stopped using Facebook, I’d stop seeing what these people are up to, their photos and other stuff. For me, that’s a bad thing.

2. My life is already all over the internet

Even if I wanted to, I can’t turn back now. I dread to think what information about me is already online, even taking Facebook out of the equation. If I decided to leave Facebook for that reason, then surely I would then, logically, have to track down all that information that is in other places. I simply cannot summon up the energy to do this. I made a decision a few years back that I was going to use the web to build a career and live my life. I can’t now complain that people I don’t know can find stuff out about me.

3. Attempts to control the internet always fail

Look what happened to AOL. If Facebook really thinks it can control the content people see and the way they see it on the web, they’re mad, and they’ll end up becoming irrelevant. I don’t really care that Facebook are trying to spread their platform wherever they like: let them. If it ends up being a case of giving up too much control for benefit accrued, people won’t engage with it and it will die.

4. My job means I need to use and understand Facebook

This is the killer for me, to be honest. A lot of the customers I work with want to use Facebook – it’s where people are, after all. How can I effectively advise them if I don’t know how the latest Facebook technology works, because I’m not using it myself? FIne I can read about stuff in blogs and whatnot, but nothing replaces the learning you get from playing with things yourself. So, professionally, I have to stay engaged with what remains one of the biggest and most influential social computing sites in the world.

Are you quitting Facebook, or sticking with it? I would be interested in hearing other people’s views!

Internet megalomania

John Naughton is spot on about the recent Facebook announcements in his Observer column:

What’s comical about this stuff is not so much its implicit arrogance – the assumption that we all want to share using Facebook – as its historical naivety. The history of the web is littered with the whitened bones of enterprises that once dreamed of total control. So until the cure for megalomania is invented, the only known antidote is a mantra. Repeat after me: the net is bigger than any single enterprise. And nobody owns it.

Well worth reading in full.

Bookmarks for April 19th through April 23rd

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

  • Open innovation, why bother? – 100% Open – "…if open innovation is to deliver sustainable business advantage then we need a better understanding of what motivates contributors to these initiatives, else there is a risk of a backlash against them…"
  • Docs.com – MS Office + Facebook beats Google Docs? Am not convinced!
  • TALKI – The easiest way to embed a forum – Embed a forum on your website – just like that! Users can sign in with Facebook, Twitter or Google accounts.
  • Government 2.0 Can and Must Save Money – "I think that the current shortage of resources and a sometimes dramatic budgetary situation can be a powerful incentive to make this change happen, to tap into the creativity of employees as well as external resources." YES!!!
  • Red Sweater Blog – Apple Downloads – VERY interesting – is Apple going to go down the App Store route for vetting Mac software now, too?
  • HTML5 presentation – "Slideshow-style presentation on HTML5 made using HTML5."
  • CDC Provides a Great Example of What Social Media Is About – "CDC’s strategy puts them in a better position to identify patterns where trust may be shifting elsewhere early enough to take action: many other agencies worldwide, which just care about publishing data and creating their Facebook pages, will be taken by surprise."
  • data.lincoln.gov.uk (beta) – Lincoln City Council start publishing data publicly – great work, and props to Andrew Beeken who must have driven this through.
  • Simplifying the social web with XAuth – "We think that XAuth can simplify and improve the social web, while keeping your private information safe. This is just one of many steps that Google is taking, along with others in the industry, to make the social web easier and more personalized."
  • Open Government and the Future of Public Sector IT – Great talk from Microsoft's Dave Coplin.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Bookmarks for April 5th through April 10th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

  • Social Media Security – "We have found a huge lack of accurate information around security issues and awareness of social media. This website aims to help educate users of social media of the threats, risks and privacy concerns that go with using them."
  • E-government is not a financial cure-all – "Whoever is in charge after 6 May, I expect the drive towards "smarter government" (or whatever catch phrase replaces it) to continue. There are simply no other tools in the box. But whoever is in charge will avidly wish someone had made a bolder start while the going was good."
  • bantApp.com: Bant Diabetes Monitoring App for the iPhone and iPod Touch – Interesting iphone app for diabetes management, via @robertbrook
  • Two models of open innovation – "Based on our recent experience of working on open innovation projects, and also building upon a great paper by Kevin Boudreau and Karim Lakhani, we have concluded that there are two distinct ways of doing open innovation – creating competitive markets or collaborative communities"
  • Let government screw up – "I have the opportunity to speak to groups across government about the benefits, challenges and potential costs of social media. In the face of institutional anxiety, I’ve argued that social media is a positive environment that encourages experimentation. In fact, online users are willing to accept mis-steps and stumbles from government organizati0ns simply because it demonstrates initiative and ambition, if not expertise."
  • Project Spaces: A Format for Surfacing New Projects – home – "The event format I'm calling Project Spaces has emerged from working with various collaborators to facilitate events for communities actively engaged and committed to finding better ways to do things."
  • Can Open Office Escape From Under A Cloud? – "I do see a future for Open Office in the enterprise — one that’s closely tied to integration with collaboration, content management, and business processes and facilitated by the likes of Oracle and IBM."
  • A democratic view of social media behaviours – Interesting action research post from Catherine – plenty to chew on here.
  • Digital exclusion, porn and games – "I wonder if – as with mobile phones – there’s a certain, influential generation that see the technology as being more than just a technology. And instead, a marker for a whole way of life they just haven’t accepted yet."
  • Social media measurement – Great stuff from Stuart Bruce – debunking a few myths and some marketing BS.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

See, local gov *can* do Facebook

One of the highlights of last Wednesday’s LGComms event was hearing about Coventry City Council‘s Facebook page.

Coventry on Facebook

If you click to see the larger image, you’ll notice that the page has 11,321 fans (as at the time of writing).

11,321!

Remarkable stuff. As I wrote, quite a while ago now, it’s tricky to use Facebook when you are the sort of organisation nobody loves to love. Who wants to be a fan of their local authority? No-one I know.

How did Ally Hook and colleagues manage this feat? Pretty simple. It’s not the Council’s FB page…it’s the city’s. Tapping into civic pride is a great way of getting people to engage. Using your Facebook page to provide up to date information on weather related issues during snowpocalypse probably helps too.

In other words:

  • be relevant: don’t try and get people to want to join a weird club for the council, tap into what people want to belong to
  • be useful: use the space in a way that actually benefits people, rather than as just another comms channel

Facebook will continue to be incredibly useful for those wishing to engage with citizens. It’s where the people are, and the numbers keep growing. Just because it has been around for a while shouldn’t mean us social media geeks look down on it. Is it time you took another look at Facebook?

For the last time…stop blocking!

There was all sorts of excitement yesterday with the news that yet another Council has reacted to the fact that some of their staff spend some of their time using social networks.

This from Arun on LocalGov.co.uk:

Staff at Portsmouth City Council have been banned from using social networking sites after a local paper investigation revealed they spent up to 572 hours a month on Facebook.

The Freedom of Information (FoI) request from Portsmouth paper, The News, discovered that on average the council’s 4,500 staff spent 413 hours on Facebook per month.

Usage peaked in July when 572 hours – equivalent to 71 working days – were spent on the site.

Following the investigation council chief executive David Williams issued a council-wide ban on all social networking sites.

‘We intend to restrict Internet access to social networking sites more than at present for non-business use,’ he said.

‘Any member of staff may, under this revised policy, make a business case to have these sites unblocked.

Sigh. It must have been a slow news day, as even the BBC reported on it – and of course they phoned up those level headed folk at Taxpayers’ Alliance for a quote. Double sigh.

The approach taken by the Council in this instance is similar to action taken by other local authorities in response to the growth in the use of social networking sites across local government. Such responses are needlessly risk-averse, and threaten these organisations’ ability to use online technology to innovate.

Putting aside the fact that, on an individual basis, the time spent on social networking sites was negligible anyway, the mistake that these councils are making is to treat online interaction differently from any other form of behaviour.

Were a member of staff found to be spending working time reading a newspaper at their desk, for example, would newspapers be banned from council offices? I doubt it.

When members of staff are found to be spending lots of time sending personal emails, is the facility removed from everyone who works there? Nope.

The same could be said of chat amongst staff, whether around the water cooler, or at desks. No organisation in their right minds would attempt to enforce a ban on talking in the office.

If a member of staff is wasting time on the internet, whether on social networks or any other site, then they should of course be disciplined, but using the same code of conduct that another other time wasting incident would employ. There is nothing new about this, except for jumping on a new piece of technology and inventing new rules for it – just because it is different.

This is a management issue, and requires a management response, not a technological one. There are no sensible reasons for blocking these websites, it is a simple case of organisations both not trusting their staff to manage their time effectively and not trusting managers to manage properly.

And I haven’t even mentioned how using social networks in the workplace can actually a) increase productivity; b) be used to do interesting engagement stuff with citizens; c) make an organisation seem like the sort of place a normal person might want to work, rather than some weird, cut-off, luddite backwater.

Sharon has written a good account of this on her blog, and Shel has picked it up in the States.

Some interesting reading

Some dead interesting stuff popped up when I logged in this morning – all worth giving a read:

Facebook buys FriendFeed

Lots of people seem to be quite upset about this one. Friendfeed is still a pretty niche service, even by the standards of the social web, so this isn’t that seismic a change. The interesting thing about FriendFeed is that it was founded and developed by a really skilled team of ex-Googlers and it is probably those guys’ brains that Facebook are after.

Read more…

Google makes new search engine available

Google have responded to the threat of a revitalised Microsoft web search (in the form of the ludicrously named Bing) by starting to re-engineer their core search product. You can test it out on the sandbox site – I found it noticeably quicker and the results are different.

Read more…

IE team ‘defends’ IE6

There have been a whole bunch of memes on the web around the fact that Internet Explorer 6 sucks and that people should replace it. This was reflected in the UKGovWeb scene with Tom Watson’s parliamentary questions asking when government departments would be upgrading from this ancient bit of tech.

Microsoft’s IE team have responded to this chatter on their blog, not necessarily defending IE6 as a product (they would prefer people to upgrade, too) but explaining the reasons why big organisations – and indeed individuals – might be happy sticking with what they know.

Read more…

PSFbuzz: Facebook applications

Image credit: Steven Tuck

I had a remarkably fun time up in Manchester last week, chairing the Public Sector Forums event at Old Trafford about local government web 2.0 strategies.

There was a whole lot of Twitter action during the day, which you can take a look at in this Google Spreadsheet. The tweets and other social media bits were all pulled together on the PSFbuzz site.

Also on that site, you’ll find a whole bunch of video interviews which Liz Azyan took. Do have a look through – they are rough and ready in a true social reporter style, but really give a flavour for the day and how delegates responded to the event.

As well as chairing, I was presenting on the subject of Facebook and how Councils are using it, and putting some ideas forward as to how they could do it a bit better.

Effectively, my argument is that applications are a great way for public bodies to engage with people within social networks. The main advantage for me – and one that is particularly pertinent for Facebook – is one of vocabulary, because an application won’t demand that you become its friend, or fan.

I’m currently working up some specifications with a developer of Facebook apps to provide a hosted service for local authorities to have their own Facebook applications at a very reasonable price. If you’re interested in this, then please do get in touch.