10 reasons I won't ban my son from using mobile devices

When you make a blanket statement that <insert super horrible thing that should be banned> should be banned for everyone in <insert category here>, I'm definitely going to take time to point out reasons it's a bad idea.

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Dear Facebook, your Groups are broken. Fix them. Please.

I’m in a bit of a bad mood when it comes to Facebook, which isn’t like me. Facebook is the social network that I watch like a hawk because of its sketchy behavior, but I don’t tend to bad-mouth because I get to keep in touch with so many people who are so far removed from me. But today things changed. I became a victim of some SERIOUSLY POOR DESIGN on Facebook’s part.

To the tune of 660 emails.

Downloaded to my iPhone.

And my iPad. (I didn’t yet know how many there were.)

That stayed on my email provider’s server, because that’s just how I manage my email.

That means I downloaded 1320 emails and deleted 1980.

Wouldn’t you be in a bad mood too!?

HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN!?

It happens when Facebook adds a cool new feature that allows Page administrators change to a Group. Groups are great things when they’re used in the right manner. They can provide stellar engagement on a topic or project and I honestly believe they are good things. 

But the page that converted today and spammed me? NOT A GOOD USE OF GROUPS! Groups are good for people that are collaborating, sharing or providing support on particular subjects. They are not a great place to move a page that has hundreds of people who are just generally reminiscing. Why, you ask?

I’ll tell you.

Because Facebook did something pretty dumb with groups. They made email notifications opt-out. Meaning, when you get added to any group, by a friend or because a page you liked decided to convert, you automatically get an email sent to you about every single thing that’s posted to said group.

This is just bad form, in my humble opinion. Also, I had the audacity to not log in to Facebook for over 12 hours and ended up getting spammed because I didn’t even know to get my keester out of that group!

I had to say “please” because I’m teaching Brandon that it’s the polite way to ask for things. Seems a tad hypocritical if I don’t use it too.My advice to Facebook

  1. Allow users who are added to Groups consent to being in a group (or continue in a group when it comes to Pages converting).
  2. Don’t send the spammy emails to users who haven’t had a chance to consent to being added to a group.
  3. Better yet, make Facebook Group notification emails opt-in to avoid that whole spam issue in the first place. Trust me - people who want to get the emails will go looking for the setting. (Yeah, I know - who wants them? Not me, but you never know.) 

I’ll get over it and I still like Facebook - even Groups

Facebook does some dumb things when it comes to its user interface and privacy settings. We all know this. It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop using it because Facebook is a great tool (as are groups)! It just needs to stop being so tooly.

Just sayin.

Seduced by power and connection into something really good

I love tech. I love gadgets. I love learning about tech and gadgets and trying new things out with them.

When I go too long without getting a new gadget to play with, I go through withdrawal and rush out to buy ill-advised gadgets that may sit unused for many, many months like my netbook that I bought two years ago. Other times, when I wait patiently for the right time and the right gadget, I find I make a decision that is so right for so many reasons.

My latest acquisition is an iPad. Matt’s wanted one since they came out. I was more reserved. I wasn’t at all convinced of how wonderful they’d be since I had heard how awkward it is to type on them. For months after it came out, I heard more about games and movies on iPad than any actual productivity apps.

Then I went to the She’s Connected Conference in Toronto last October. All I had with me was that netbook I mentioned above and my iPhone. The netbook wasn’t a good option for recording anything about the conference because the battery was dead and there were no available power outlets. So, I was stuck with just my iPhone. The thing that made me change my mind about the iPad was the heckling that this woman did when all my friends on wifi kept losing their internet connection. (The heckling was all in good fun. :) Not only did she have her 3G connection all day, but she also had battery life that meant she didn’t need to plug in all day.

I won’t lie. I got seduced by Shannon’s power and connection. I wanted that for myself, though it wasn’t a high priority since I don’t exactly go to conferences every day.

Several months later, when Matt and I decided to take a trip to the Apple Store, we knew that there was a good chance we’d walk out of the mall with an iPad in our hands.

Though we bought it quickly, sort of on a whim (though it had been in the plan for this year), it took a bit of time for me to fully embrace my new iPad. About two weeks in, I started to wonder if I shouldn’t have jumped in so quickly. I wasn’t using it nearly as much as I thought I would. That was alarming, because it could easily end up being a colossal waste of money if it wasn’t being used.

I had to make more of an effort. This led me to start trying applications I’d downloaded and set up accounts for long ago for my iPhone (for example, Evernote, to name one). At first, I wasn’t convinced it was all that useful. Until I finally downloaded the desktop application, which led to me install the browser add-on and then I noticed integration with several other apps I use on a regular basis. Pretty soon I was carrying my iPad everywhere I went just so I could whip it out with my Zagg to take notes in meetings, workshops, save blog posts with valuable information, read and, of course, play Plants vs. Zombies as time allowed.

I realized something else recently, too. Since I started making a concerted effort to use my iPad more, I use paper less and less. With apps like Penultimate that allow you to write with your finger, who needs a pad of paper? That’s not even close to the only app that allows you to do such environmentally-friendly tasks. There are a host of apps that assist with brainstorming, note-taking, time management and so much more.

Yesterday, when a friend of mine mentioned that the “paperless” society we’ve all been expecting for the last 20 years hasn’t materialized, I started thinking about how close I’m getting to a paperless Karen. Still not there yet, but having moved all of my bills to e-bills, using a second monitor to compare two documents when necessary, taking notes (mostly) electronically rather than using paper, I’m getting there.

More and more I wish that I had the ability to do this or that electronically. One huge example is my bus pass. I want my pass on my phone so I can flash my phone at the driver and not worry that I’ve left my pass in the wrong bag. In the past 18 months that I’ve been riding the bus, I’ve forgotten my phone once. In that same period, I’ve forgotten my bus pass a couple dozen times.

I have big dreams, my friend - a world of paperless/plasticless bus passes being one of them. And iPads for all. Because they are awesome.

What gadget(s) do you love and what do you want it/them to do for you?

No way! We’re supposed to expect privacy on the Internet!?

Lately there’s been a lot of hoopla about Facebook’s privacy policies and the direction that they seem to be taking. I’ve seen warnings in friends’ status updates several times and I definitely appreciate being made aware of what’s going on through their updates and articles like this one that one of my Facebook friends posted from Wired. I think it’s imperative for everyone who joins any site on the Web to take personal responsibility for knowing what these services are doing with the data they obtain through their site. Thanks to my friends’ warnings, I usually go and tighten up my privacy settings every time Facebook decides to loosen them without my permission. 

But at the same time, I look at my profile and I feel somewhat indifferent to their efforts to share my “personal data”. I don’t really care because I don’t actually give Facebook much personal data that they can do anything with. I had to agree with this post on Twitter because Facebook isn’t the only Internet giant with access to our personal data – AND Facebook requires you to sign up for it and enter the data, whereas some others, e.g., Google, just acquires it whether you know it or not:


Matthew Ingram also wrote an interesting post on GigaOM about Facebook’s privacy issues; his perspective seems to be pretty similar to mine.

Am I apathetic about the issue? Not at all. I’ve just made a personal policy decision that I don’t voluntarily put information on Facebook or any other Web site that isn’t already easily found elsewhere without much effort – or that I’m not fully comfortable sharing with the world. Because even on a site like Facebook that requires a membership, I feel it’s extremely important to remain circumspect because no matter how secure MY password is, it doesn’t mean that my friends have a secure password, too.

My Facebook profile identifies my gender (I don’t know many men named Karen, so that’s a fairly safe assumption as soon as someone sees my name), my birthday without the year, my family members who are also on Facebook, my hometown of Tallahassee, Florida and my current city of Ottawa, Ontario. I’ve also listed my political and religious leanings. The one thing that may not be easily found on the Internet already is my high school, but I’m not going to take that off because it allows me to connect with my former classmates. I don’t store any of my personal contact information on Facebook other than my email address and that isn’t accessible even to my friends – the ones who need to email me know how to do so. Not that my email address is a big secret, which is evidenced by the exorbitant amount of spam I delete all the time.

I’ve secured my photos so that only my friends have access to them, though I do send public photo album links to my father, who isn’t on Facebook. I know he’s not going to share them with sketchy people, if he shares anyone at all. Honestly, if I heard that my photos were being used by someone in Prague for advertising, I would wonder what they were thinking, unless its pictures of my son – he’s adorable and very photogenic, so I could understand why they’d want his pictures. Oddly, I decided to lock down my albums after “unfriending” an individual (yes, one single person).

Frankly, there is absolutely nothing on my Facebook account that anyone should really care that much about. I’m also not connected to hundreds or thousands of “friends” who are interested in any piece of my life. I figure it’s the major bloggers and celebrities who may have need for some concern. The Globe and Mail article above does tell the story of an average woman whose images were taken and Photoshopped, but I don’t see that becoming the norm. It’s weird and creepy, yes, but mostly I just wonder what’s wrong with the person who did it that they don’t have better things to do with their time.

Dan Yoder at Gizmodo is encouraging everyone to bail on Facebook because they are “unethical” and have waged “war on privacy” – and he isn’t so kind about Matthew Ingram’s views. While I don’t feel concern about my personal data being on Facebook, I certainly can’t blame anyone for deciding to leave. The points Dan Yoder makes are mostly valid, but my personal Internet use policy is that I make an effort not to put anything out there anywhere that I’m going to regret later – whether it’s personal information, pictures or comments, etc. In my opinion, protection of my personal information is MY responsibility. That’s why I don’t save it in Facebook.

Facebook is a perfect example of an Internet service that people need to adopt personal policies for how they will use it. Bad policy would be something like posting your address and telephone number in your profile and then announcing that you’re going on vacation. (I’ve seen people do this - don’t know if their profiles are open or not, but it always makes me cringe!! Actually, I cringe whenever someone posts it whether their address is on FB or not! It’s not like it’s hard to find an address - as mentioned in the Twitter comment above.) Matt and I discussed early on after Brandon was born that we wouldn’t post pictures of Brandon with a bare bum. Sure, it’s cute, but we aren’t comfortable with it and we also have to think about what he’ll be comfortable with 10, 15, 20 years from now. His generation’s lives will be chronicled on the Internet for all to see, but for a number of years he won’t even have a say in what is posted about him. I see it as my job to be cautious on his behalf.

Every person using the Internet has to decide what they are comfortable with and never deviate from it – whether the site is restricted access or completely open. Unfortunately, once something is posted on the Web, there is absolutely no guarantee that when you hit the delete button it will go away forever. The Web doesn’t work that way, no matter how much people wish it did. Do I agree with the way Facebook operates? Absolutely not, but I’m stickin’ with the devil I know for now. The next one could be far worse!

***** 

Special thanks to Amber Strocel for her recent Thoughts on Internet Privacy post at Strocel.com. I re-used the Globe and Mail article she referenced and I must give her some of the credit for kick-starting my own thoughts on this subject.