Housekeeping

Call it “spring cleaning in the summer”, but I recently went through my social media stuff and took the time to figure out what I wanted to keep or delete. I’ve gotten bloated in the sheer number of social media accounts I have and I took a hard look at where I’ve signed up, what I still use, and how I want these sites in my life. The divide for how I use these sites is somewhere in the middle between personal and professional; while I maintain good contacts with friends and family, I also use it to promote my blog (read: myself). So, with some of those factors in mind, here’s how it went down.

Gone: My accounts on Google Plus and Pinterest as well as my Facebook author page. The first two I never checked ever unless I was at the brink of web boredom death. I never really saw much traffic from Google Plus to my blog and it turned into yet-another-place to dump a link. Even then, there wasn’t much interaction from my links and more often than not the notices were telling me how people I don’t know had added me to their circles. Or worse, that they have invited me to an event that I couldn’t give two damns about attending. Google Plus was the large annoying fly in the room and I finally just had to swat it.

I liked Pinterest, but beyond uploading the funny pictures I made, it didn’t hold much interest for me. I never remembered to pin things to it nor did I ever want to do so. I mean, isn’t that what Tumblr is for? (More on Tumblr later.)

As for my Facebook Author page, the apps were starting to get on my nerve. I had something that would import Tumblr and WordPress posts, but it was asking and re-asking permission every few weeks. When I realized that it had not posted in a few weeks, I was just plain frustrated. It didn’t bring much traffic either, but I will miss posting pictures with all the sharing ease it possessed. But, after all the other Facebook crap of the last couple of weeks, I just let it go.

On The Fence: Oh, LinkedIn. You’re like that person from high school who thinks that after graduation we should all stay in contact with each other. I keep getting emails from them so every now and then I go clear out all my messages and invitations. There are some people I know who really know how to work that site in terms of getting consulting and speaking gigs. God bless them, but it looks more exhausting to me than I care to do. I updated my profile and added my TechSoup writing to my experience, but I don’t know what else to do. Sure, I’d like more writing and speaking gigs and be able to help out libraries create social media strategies, but I’m still not entirely converted to the value professed to exist (nor am I willing to pay for the upgrade). I’ll keep it for now, but only because it’s a good passive billboard.

Keeping: Twitter is by far one of my strongest online presences professionally, so that’s certainly going to stay. I have lots of good contacts on Facebook so that will remain as part of my online “personal” life (yes, even if it is being supervised by the NSA). I’m enjoying being on Imgur, but I still have my toes in the water on that one. There is another social media website that I’m keeping, but it’s my last bastion of online privacy (I know, har har) so I have to defend it by keeping it secret.

I’m going to take another shot at Tumblr. All those Tumbrarian/Tumblrarian posts have made me take another look at the service. I enjoyed using it for the New Jersey Library Roadshow back in the fall since it can handle any kind of post, but I’ve had a harder time getting into the habit of using/checking it. The shame for me is that I really like how easy it is, how many formats I can post in, and how the new interface has moved along. I’ve used it in the past for "A View from Your Desk” (a collection of pictures taken from people’s library workspaces) and “LOLbrarian” (homemade memes). Right now, with it being connected to Twitter, it has worked well for things I want to post that are longer than a tweet. I’ll have to get better at tagging posts and adding content on a regular basis.

For what it’s worth, this cleaning has been very cathartic for me. In deleting some accounts and out of date blogs, I’ve removed some of the internet debris I’ve left lying around. I highly suggest taking a close look at your online footprint and taking action where needed.

It’s good to do a little housekeeping.

Leaving Las Facebook

From the New Yorker:

Zuckerberg’s business model requires the trust and loyalty of his users so that he can make money from their participation, yet he must simultaneously stretch that trust by driving the site to maximize profits, including by selling users’ personal information. The I.P.O. last week will exacerbate this tension: Facebook’s huge valuation now puts pressure on the company’s strategists to increase its revenue-per-user. That means more ads, more data mining, and more creative thinking about new ways to commercialize the personal, cultural, political, and even revolutionary activity of users.

There is something vaguely dystopian about oppressed peoples in Syria or Iran seeking dignity and liberation inside a corporate sovereign that is, for its part, creating great wealth for its founders and asserting control over its users.

I was off on the day that Facebook had its I.P.O. a week and a half ago so I got to watch some of the market reaction as it unfolded. I also happened to be eating lunch with my father, a retired financial advisor. As we watched the stock price flatten to the opening offer of $38 a share on one of those financial cable networks, he looked at me and said, “They left nothing on the table.” The translation of that statement is this: in making an initial offer, companies and banks want to price a stock so that it goes up initially to show market confidence in the valuation of the company. In order to get that gain, there has to be a value to move towards; like from $34 a share to $38 a share. In pricing it at $38 a share, that’s the same number that the investors thought it should be at. The price didn’t budge because people didn’t feel it was worth more than that. There are many reasons why investors might feel that way, but that’s a whole other post for people with better financial knowledge. The bottom line is that in pricing the shares, the company and the bank ‘left nothing on the table’ for investors to move towards.

As the computer class instructor at my library, I felt that my father’s statement is rather apropos when it comes to the Facebook class I teach. In taking people through the site, I spend the largest portion of my class on the privacy settings as well as giving my students the pros and cons about information sharing on the website. Share to your comfort level, I would tell them as I described how the data that they offer can be used to sell advertising on the site. In light of the new investor pressure, I am considering advising them with the same thing my father said: leave nothing on the table. While I do my best to offer as much information as possible so that people can make their own privacy choices on Facebook, the importance of personal information management has only grown. It’s no longer about what how much you entered into your profile or your current and future updates, but revisiting and revising previous updates and inputs.

Some may interpret this as revisionist personal history; I would opt for calling it timeline curating. I don’t see an issue with a person going back and removing information they no longer want to share with Facebook; it is not actually removing it from existence. While the site encourages you to make it a home for your history, it’s pretty hard to not notice that there is a bottom line that is also in play that utilizes that information. In looking at the sum total of your Facebook profile and timeline, from the first update to the current photo album, it’s still your data that you can remove at any time.[1] While you cannot delete your Facebook account, there is nothing stopping you from stripping it down to the bare essentials: a birthdate and an email address. Leave nothing on the table.

For myself, privacy is a odd library issue these days. There is a push to get libraries on social media to engage and share with their members. Conferences and workshops have speakers tossing out hyperbolic statements like “you must be on [insert social media site here] or your library will [insert dire consequence here]”. They tend to talk about what the library could share and how awesome it would be while sprinkling in some success stories, but then glaze over the nuts-and-bolts portion about how it requires staff time, integration, and an actual organizational strategy and purpose. Using Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest is not for casual outreach because it’s a ‘free’ platform, but something that needs to be maintained and grown over course of months and years. (To steal a phrase from Toby Greenwalt, “Free as in kittens, not as in beer.”) I can’t recall much discussion given to privacy in these cases, so I’d be curious to hear a speaker who addressed this issue head on.

Contrasting this urge to share is the ALA’s own campaign, PrivacyRevolution, complete with its own website and week. There’s even a webpage that offers an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights as it pertains to privacy. On top of that, there are (in general) state statutes regarding confidentiality and disclosure of a library record. Here in New Jersey, a library record can only be disclosed as part of proper operation of the library, a request by the user, or a court subpoena or order.[2] Your state or country’s laws might be different, but I’m guessing that if you are in the United States, it’s probably something similar. The message here is that information inquiry is a private matter that is business of no one else but the individual; that in this age of increased monitoring, it is paramount for libraries and librarians to work to ensure personal privacy.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very much in favor of educating people about what happens to the information that they put out online or in person. But it is a odd path to walk when there is an advocacy push to embed ourselves in social media and “go where our users are” while others are raising flags of concern about privacy and offering caution and wariness about our online footprints.

“Tell us what you are reading, but don’t tell us what you are reading.”

In the end, I think that last line of the first paragraph in the quote at the start of this post holds the most truth: as social media sites go public, there will be a push to use personal data in new and possibly not privacy kosher ways. Personally, I’m not overly concerned; people already make their choices as to what they want to keep to themselves and what they want to share. Sure, we have websites loaded with poor choices of the latter, but that seems statistically correct in the broad scheme of things. The best that computer class instructors like myself can do is lay out everything and let the people make their own choices. I’m not planning on leaving Facebook at this juncture; it still serves a purpose and I understand the quid pro quo of what I am getting in exchange for allowing access to my personal information ‘stuff’. Right now, for myself it is about finding those privacy limits and making plans accordingly. And when I do go, I’ll be sure to leave nothing on the table.

 

[1] I do wonder if deleting something would actually remove it permanently and how much data Facebook collects about information that has been ‘deleted’. I’d really wonder if they’d want to dedicate resources to hanging onto such things, but I wouldn’t put it past any social site these days.

[2] Strangely enough, while the record is protected by statute, there is no librarian-member confidentiality privilege like doctor-patient or lawyer-client. So, while I couldn’t disclose a library record to a law enforcement official without the paperwork, any conversation I had with the member is not legally protected. Library records in New Jersey are defined as any document or record for maintaining control over circulation or public use of library materials. I wonder if anyone has gotten slapped with obstruction of justice for not sharing their conversation with a member.

My Own Filter Failure

It’s been a long time coming, but I have to fess up and admit it: I am suffering from filter failure. In my dive into social media, I forgot one very important limitation: myself. As much as I wanted to FRIEND/FOLLOW/CIRCLE/RSS ALL THE PEOPLE, I crossed a line where the tool moved from being useful to information cacophony. With the ease of adding people and feeds, it’s not one of those situations where is becomes obvious that you have gone too far. No, it’s been building up for awhile and only in the last few weeks have I realized what I had done.

While unsubscribing to email lists and blogs is relatively painless and easy, there is a certain apprehension that fills me when it comes to the people on Twitter and Facebook. It’s the unfortunate paradox of not giving too much thought to following or accepting a friend request, yet really not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings by removing them from either. “Sure, I’ll be your friend, random internet quasi stranger!” is how it starts, but the negative connotations of exclusion and unfriending make it feel like the most public kind of snub. Perhaps it is the term ‘unfriending’ that makes it seem so dire and such a commentary on the relationship. There is no easy way of saying “I no longer want to be your friend, even though if I took time to examine the depth of our relationship I could only describe you as a remote acquaintance at best” because people will stop reading right at the comma. The rest of the sentence as well as the context and meaning is lost after the comma.

But, at the end of the day, if I don’t feel that a tool is useful, I will ultimately discard it. Since I want to keep them, it means that I will have to steel myself and dive headlong into lists of friends, followings, and circles to come out with something a bit better for myself. So, to a unknown number of good people out there, I say unto you, “Nothing personal, but I need to get back to where my social media works for me.”

Let the weeding begin. 

Is Online Oversharing *Really* That Bad?

There is a common lament about online oversharing and, quite frankly, I don’t completely understand the complaint. If a person was standing in front of you prattling on about their personal life, you’d be stuck there till you got an opportunity to politely excuse yourself, make an attempt to change the subject, or have someone come and rescue from their overly personal self involved monologue (unless you happen to be someone who doesn’t mind being overtly rude, in which case more power to you). If someone is oversharing online, you can either ignore, mute, or hide their post; if they are a repeat offender, you can hide them from your newsfeed or circle or even unfriend or block them. Your escape from their TMI posting is just a mouse click away without having to thoughtfully consider your drink glass or trying to make “HELP ME” eye contact with a friend across the room. One mouse click and the offending material is removed from sight, never to be seen again.

Perhaps the reason people get upset is that it acts as an intrusion to a social circle that we have created. In surrounding myself online with friends, acquaintances, and professional contacts, I’ve created a personalized experience that allows me to keep informed of the daily doings and goings-on. When someone breaks that by posting something that falls into the realm of Too Much Information, it creates a fracture in the social mosaic. For all the time that you have spent making connecting, there is no button or filter for that stray unwanted content.

Alternatively, it could be that there is a disconnect between what people would say in person versus what they say online. Without the face to face component, people feel more at ease sharing details of their life that they might not. The computer interface does not judge the information, it just passes the posting along. There is certainly excellent anecdotal evidence of “keyboard courage” that people get when making anonymous blog postings or comments on websites; the only difference in this case would be that it is not anonymous. Or, also a possibility, without the face to face component, people do not see the immediate reaction to their comments or posts. In a conversation, they might alter or stop what they are saying on the basis of the other person.

There are some additional explanations worth noting. There are people out there who just plain overshare. For them, they don’t have a personal or a private side; everything about them is out there for the world to see. Whether it is purposeful, obliviousness, or narcissism, they feel the need to not hold back. (Whether that is a good or bad thing is another debate.) Another possible explanation is to the ignorance of the social ramifications of their oversharing. Again, without the physically present listener, they might not understand how their words, link, and pictures affect other people. In an age of society which has text, chat, and other word based means of communication, there may be a lack of socializing.

Or socializing might just be evolving with the variety of communication mediums that are now offered in the technological society. The physical playgrounds of my youth are being slowly replaced by the digital connections that children and teens can now create. How will social norms look in twenty years as the digital generations come to adulthood and maturity?

Getting back to my point, I cannot help but think that some of the laments about online oversharing are the result of filter failure. It may be a failure of the original poster to consider what may or may not be appropriate, but it is also the failure of the reader to not exercise their powers to mute, hide, block, and otherwise unfriend people who cross their boundaries. The social media sites have given us the power to control what we see, who we follow, and what we read. It’s up to us to use those tools.

What do you think? How much liability does the original poster share with the reader? Can we achieve our comfort levels? Or is it a constant battle to find the right level of sharing?

A Different Social Path

Via Mashable:

Path calls itself “The Personal Network” because it’s determined to go against the example set by Twitter’s follower model; you are limited to just 50 friends on Path. It chose the 50 number based on the theories of Oxford professor of evolutionary psychology Robin Dunbar, who claims that 150 is the maximum number of social relationships any human can handle.

This site is certainly a “quality over quantity” type of social media platform deal, placing an emphasis on smaller groups of individuals sharing their personal details. It’s the “dinner with friends” motif as opposed to the “giant buffet” that Twitter and Facebook can be. It’s currently in very limited release as an iPhone app, but you can check it out on the web. It also appears to be photo based in its content, but I think that the interface is appealing in its simplicity: place, names, and activity plus a photograph.

In addition, I see it as a good platform to recommend to patrons who don’t want to do the rigmarole of Facebook yet be able to share pictures and activities with each other. Specifically, I can see it as a way to connect non-smart phone using family members with those who have it. I’d be curious to see how it rolls out to other mobile platforms or even as a web portal. It will be interesting to see how Path shapes up because I think there is a place for something between Facebook and Twitter in terms of sharing information with a designated group of people. It will be interesting to see how this platform develops.

Lending Materials of a Different Sort

About six months ago, I read about an organization called Kiva that makes microloans to groups and individuals in economically disadvantaged countries all over the world. These loans, ranging from several hundred dollars to several thousand, represent people trying to improve their business and lives. Microloans are a great way to provide capital to small businesses that are otherwise ignored by financial institutions. (Read about the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh; this Nobel Peace Prize winning organization started lending to the poor in Bangladesh.) Over time, the loans are repaid to your account; you can take the money out or you can re-loan it to other applicants. It is not without its risk. For myself, it’s a worthwhile calculated risk. At best I get paid back so I can make another loan; at worst, I tried and it didn’t work.

The reason for this post is not simply to sing the praises of a remarkable organization and their lofty goals, but I was delighted to find out about a lending team called Lending Librarians. I’ve joined the team and I’d like to encourage others to join as well. It doesn’t have to be much ($25 is the minimum), but that $25 can literally make a world of difference in someone’s life. You choose who you can lend to; by joining the team, you can give credit to the team. Also, team members can post about who they are lending to, so we can throw our support behind someone who may be a few bucks short.

Give it a whirl. I’m glad I’m did. And it’s nice to find something new to lend that can change their lives forever.

Social Media for Social Good

Last evening, I attend an event called Social Media for Social Good hosted by the Philadelphia chapter of the Social Media Club. I had learned of this event through a Facebook posting of one of its members. This event highlighted how social media tools were being used to promote charities in the areas; specifically, Blame Drew’s Cancer, Philadelphia Twestival, and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. I am curious to see how other types of groups and individuals approach the tools and technology.

In turn, each speaker got up and gave a brief overview of what they are using to get the word out on their cause. Overall, there was a lot of talk of Twitter, of organization websites, and a smattering of Facebook groups. In a way, I was disappointed; I had hoped that there would be some sort of gem of a website or tool that I had not heard of but would really rock my world. But, in listening to the other people at the event speak, it also gave me a good barometer of the things people were using, how they were using it, and to what success. While I had not discovered something new and radical, it was a nice reassurance that all of my promotional efforts are hitting the same places that some of the professional consultants are using.

My biggest takeaway from the event was from the group itself; here is a room full of people looking to use social media and web tools to assist those in need. Could this sort of enterprise be duplicated in the library community? My instincts tell me that it could; the example I would look to is the Save Ohio Libraries phenomena. With a Facebook group, Twitter hashtag, Flickr account, and intuitive website with their compelling story, they mustered thousands of people to rally for their cause. I can’t help but believe that it had an impact on the budget process, even if the cuts passed were still devastating.

But in looking at other budget fights that are being broadcast on Twitter and Facebook, they don’t seem to have the same “oompf” to it. Pennsylvania has the second best response to news that I’ve seen, but there wasn’t much in the way of tweets or retweets beyond the initial story. Searches of Facebook groups for states in the news with library cuts reveals a smattering with small numbers. When I go to the corresponding state’s library association website, there is a simple notice and a plea for action.

Photo by Andrea Nay/Flickr In taking a step back and looking at the different events, I’m not sure why one is succeeding like crazy and the others are limping along. Perhaps Ohio had the biggest “sticker shock” of the state budgets; you really can’t beat having someone slash a budget in half to induce outrage and the desire to take action. Maybe Ohio had a much more hardcore series of library professionals on Twitter who were diligent about tweeting and retweeting budget information, calls for actions, and rally recaps all under the same hashtag. A group with a vested interest in the results who could tell the story of the Ohio budget battle. Likewise for the joining and sharing of the Facebook group which grew to over 50,000 people over a period of two weeks. There was a focused purpose to the whole endeavor: getting people involved with a definitive goal in mind.

In looking at the other library based causes, my inclination is to say that they suffer from a lack of visibility and organization at the grassroots level. There is a vast difference between asking someone to write to their representative versus asking someone to write to their representative, sign up an online petition, join this Facebook group, check out a website, and be sure to follow the news on Twitter. (To a degree, this has been a topic of conversation in one of my NJLA groups.) It has to be more than a plea for help; it has to draw people in, get them involved, and to move together as one.

But getting back to the group that filled that Temple University classroom and the question asked a few paragraphs back, what would it take to create a similar group of library advocates? I have a few thoughts but I want to map them out over the next couple of days. I think the time for networks that are broader than state lines is coming; I see it as inevitable as our connections between libraries grow greater.