An Interesting Argument

February 28, 2011

Mirror Mirror

Just an interesting visual representation of what I’ve been talking about. Enjoy!


Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness

February 24, 2011

… But it keeps a social networking site like Facebook in our lives. How else does the company support the sheer magnitude of management that is required of the world’s largest social networking site? Buying the office space alone has become a task, as Facebook is expanding and moving into new physical locations all over the globe. Server space, hosting, salaries, all of it- it all costs money. So how does a free-to-join, free-to-use site like Facebook generate the green?

This is an interesting video describing the brief process of how Facebook makes money, using your information. Even just the simple information, like your gender and your age, are enough for Facebook to take and sell to other parties. Do I think this is a big deal? Not really. I don’t think it’s super important that a third party knows that I am one of countless 21-year-old females using the social networking site. But when these other parties compile all the information they can about me and track it back to my personal identity, that could be a problem.

So just an interesting insight on how the Facebook world turns. It’s honestly a simple business model, that most social networking sites or site in general deploy, but specific to Facebook and the additional information you can share, it packs a mightier punch.

Ten Things

February 19, 2011

The last thing I like to do is throw pointless references to things you should and should not do on Facebook, but when I was digging around for something fresh for a blog post I found this site. The most interesting thing about the site is that it gives you specific examples of what happens to your information when you don’t hide it, and how you can hide it. To sum up their points:

1. Use your friend lists. Using friend lists allows you to group your friends into categories. So you don’t want Mom to see those pictures from last night? You have a group for her and her friends and your other family members, and you can set up those sorts of guidelines. I have a list called “People I don’t know.” It’s sad, but they’re mostly people who want to be friends with me on Facebook because I wrote in the high school newspaper/was a three sport athlete/spoke at graduation/or they’re creeping (because honestly, they have no reason to be friends with me). Rather than outrageously offend my freshman English teacher’s daughter, I put them in the “People I don’t know” category, and then I have a straight line approach to the every three months friend purge.

My amendment: Use your friend lists, but also: Do not be afraid to de-friend, or not even friend in the first place.

2. Remove yourself from Facebook search results. This one is self-explanatory: if you remove yourself from searches, you can limit who can find you. I have my search set so that people in my network can find me, and people who have a mutual friend can find me. Otherwise, I’m not in search results when a random person is looking for me.

3. Remove yourself from Google. The very first thing I did when I found out that Google searches could pull up Facebook profiles was fix that little problem by removing the public search feature from my account. If you do not specify that you don’t want to be in Google searches, you will be in them. Facebook generates a good amount of its traffic through Google searches, so the feature works in their favor. You just have to decide if it works in YOUR favor.

4. Avoid the infamous photo tag mistake. This goes without saying- you can control who sees your photos, and you can even control who can tag you in photos. Then, you can also apply your friends lists from earlier to make this setting even more personalized.

My amendment: I don’t want embarrassing photos of myself on Facebook, so I never post any or tag any of my friends. It’s like the Golden Rule of Facebook photo tagging. Do unto others…

5. Protect your albums. Like photo tagging, you can control who can see your photo albums. If you defriend your ex boyfriend because you don’t want him to see how hot you got after you broke up with him, or the fact that you’ve been hanging out with his old roommate he always suspected of pining after you, there’s a chance he can still see your photo albums. So check that, because even though revenge and vindication are fun, they aren’t things you want permanently posted online, especially when you thought you took care of the problem.

6. Prevent stories from showing up in your Friend’s newsfeeds. The first thing I always tell people when they are about to break up publicly on Facebook (because we all know it’s not official until it’s online) is to fix their settings so that no one’s newsfeeds show the development. Unless of course you want for everyone to see you finally broke up with the jerk, take that down a notch so the breakup doesn’t become another way for people to post things they’ll regret later.

My addition: Sometimes, we don’t make settings changes for just ourselves: If you have real friends on Facebook, you might be protecting them too. And not just from spammers, but from themselves.

7. Protect against published application stories. I don’t need to hound you on this one: we’ve been over applications a lot already. Protect yourself from potential embarrassment as well as your friends from checking out what you never meant to check out by blocking applications from posting on your newsfeed.

8. Make your contact information private. Don’t post your address, don’t let others see your address if you for some reason do, don’t make your phone number public, and don’t leave your school email or work email open to spammers on Facebook.

My addition: It’s sort of like leaving a message on your answering machine that you’ll be out of town for three weeks on vacation. If you have your address or location on Facebook, everyone knows you’re not at home, or everyone knows you are. Unless you literally have ZERO friends you think are capable of malicious intent, don’t leave yourself unprotected from potential threats.

9. Avoid embarrassing wall posts. Every fall comes the infamous name changes: when you’re a senior looking for a good job after graduation, you don’t want recruiters checking out all your personal life on your Facebook wall. So work on your settings for your wall, because even just Mom posting about the socks you left at home last weekend kills your cool factor.

10. Keep your friendships private. This is again a good point about how what you do on Facebook is on a “social network.” All your friends are subject to the settings you have: third party applications, spammers, and anything else that could be considered a nuisance (viral videos, anyone?) can find their way to your friends easily if you don’t keep your friendships private. Sometimes, you want the whole world to know you have 1,000+ friends because you’re just that cool, but sometimes you send 1,000+ sets of information to a third party who makes money off of their private lives.

Facebook and Politics

February 15, 2011

A very disturbing thought crossed my mind this morning: If Egyptians did have access to Facebook, many of them would have lacked the necessary means to actively join in on the revolution. While I don’t mean to contemplate on whether or not the revolution was politically correct or not, I do find it astounding to think about how important the social networking site was to coordinating the Egyptian protests. In my country, Americans are encouraged to use sites like Facebook or Twitter. I wouldn’t ever expect to see these sites shut down for any reason, especially if they are being used to aid free speech.

This article is a good read on how politics is becoming intertwined with social media.

So this is a different question to think on: in terms of government, is what you say on Facebook fair game?

And regardless of what you might think is fair game, the government will probably think anything posted on Facebook is fair game, much like anything you would write in a newspaper or what I’m writing on this blog. What we do online becomes a reflection of ourselves, and the government can take it that way.

So again, you are what you post. And not just to your friends or marketers, but also to higher agencies.

Sponsored Stories

February 10, 2011

Maybe lately you’ve been seeing a side bar addition to the usual advertisements Facebook has had in the past called “Sponsored Stories.” And maybe that’s your boyfriend who was somewhere grabbing coffee, or your best friend who just facebooked about buying a pair of sexy heels for this weekend on Zappos. Here’s what Facebook has to say about this new feature:

For instance, I just refreshed my home page to find that three of my friends on Facebook “like” the Special Olympics. Going out on a limb, maybe, to suggest that these three friends of mine didn’t expect Facebook to broadcast their click of the like button next to “Special Olympics” throughout their friend list on the site.

For businesses everywhere, this concept makes sense. In fact, it does better than just make sense. Recent surveys and advertisers have said that this past Sunday’s Superbowl advertisements actually made a bigger splash on social networking sites, mainly Facebook, than they did on the actual television broadcast. This is logical when you think about all the re-posting of YouTube versions of this year’s  funniest commercials on the site. Some research also showed that the social networking aspect allowed many users to not just re-post the commercials in a positive manner, but also in a negative manner. Groupon’s controversial commercials ranked as near the bottom of the list of notable commercials, not because they weren’t Facebooked, but because they were- a lot- and with negative remarks.

So I propose a new motto (within the context of your own personal privacy settings): You are what you post. You are what you like. You are what you do on your Facebook. If you “check-in” to a local hot spot and post about it in a positive manner, Facebook now has the capability to take that feed and process it as an advertisement dubbed a “Sponsored Story” on your friends pages.

Hands on

February 7, 2011

My biggest problem with Facebook privacy setting is that the site customizes a setting “for you.” This is the default setting your Facebook is set on if you do not go in and change it. For instance, I have my Facebook set to only allow access to every category on the front privacy page (except for my school email, which I have completely private) set to “friends only.” Facebook recommends that I allow all users access to basic information, friends of friends to some information, and only “friends only” for three categories. In order to walk you through the basic privacy settings on Facebook, I’m going to show you some screen shots of the privacy settings pages on the site.

My biggest problem with Facebook privacy setting is that the site customizes a setting “for you.” This is the default setting your Facebook is set on if you do not go in and change it. For instance, I have my Facebook set to only allow access to every category on the front privacy page (except for my school email, which I have completely private) set to “friends only.” Facebook recommends that I allow all users access to basic information, friends of friends to some information, and only “friends only” for three categories. In order to walk you through the basic privacy settings on Facebook, I’m going to show you some screen shots of the privacy settings pages on the site.

The site is also misleading because a user could easily believe that these are the only settings. That is not true. There are also settings for connecting on Facebook, Apps and Websites, Block Lists, and a link to more information about the privacy options on Facebook. If you’ve never noticed these settings before, it’s probably because Facebook uses good aesthetics to make the links blend in, all around the big box centered on the page.

The two biggest sections I always tell people to look at, and the sections making the most noise as far as user outcry, are the settings for what apps can know about you through your friends and the new instant personalization option. I’ll talk more about instant personalization later, but we all know what apps are capable of doing when we give them access. Did you know that apps can access your information without you even using the application? Facebook allows apps to access friends’ information when a user signs on to the app. This screen below shows just what information can be checked off as fair game for apps to access just if a user’s friend uses the app.

Facebook claims, “the more info you share, the more social the experience.” And that may be true, but Facebook also has said that apps are third parties and are not directly controlled by Facebook’s security or privacy teams. Needless to say, I unchecked all those options as soon as I realized a third party app being used by an old high school friend had access to my personal photos.

Facebook is a “Private” Company

February 6, 2011

I feel like it’s time to take a step back and put the focus on the business side of Facebook. Here is what Facebook stated in its latest press release:

Founded in February 2004, Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. Anyone can sign up for Facebook and interact with the people they know in a trusted environment. Facebook is a privately held company and is headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif.

Facebook is a private company. Not to be confused with the term private I have been throwing around for the last week. This term private is used to distinguish Facebook as a privately held company. This means that Facebook is defined as a company owned by a smaller number of shareholders or company members, and the ownership of these shares of Facebook stock are not publicly traded on stock markets. Shares of Facebook are only available privately, that is the only access you or I have to ownership is through a private exchange between ourselves and the company.

Why is this important? Because according to the very same press release, which you can read here, Facebook now expects to exceed 500 shareholders by April 31, 2012. And once Facebook does this, it will be required to file public financial reports by this time at the latest. Cool, now what? Once Facebook begins filing public financial reports, the logical and most financially rewarding step will be making Facebook a public company. While Facebook will not be bound to go public by any means, once they go through the steps of public reporting and the red tape associated, there is no reason why the company should not go public. And that means an IPO.

An IPO is an initial public offering. This will be the first chance for an ordinary person to participate in the selling, buying, or exchanging of Facebook shares on stock markets, rather than privately. The impact of an IPO is far-reaching, and I plan to examine that much more in depth, but for now what’s important: Experts are saying to expect a Facebook IPO by April of 2012. Once Facebook goes public, their financial reports will be released publicly, meaning all my musings about where Facebook makes money and what it does with it can be proved or disproved.

This is important, because at the end of the day, Facebook is making money off of its users activity on the network. This activity generates information. Your information.

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