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.

Capitalizing on Ottawa's social media conference void

It’s hard to describe the feelings I have right now about Social Capital. Four months of planning and working to pull everything together and the day felt like it flew by in a flash. Despite some blips, I think the day was an unqualified success. Yes, Ottawa’s very first social media conference - born and bred in this town - was really, really good. 

It only seemed appropriate that this inaugural conference in Ottawa be kicked off by Glen Gower, founder of OttawaStart.com and a bunch of other sites, who has his finger on the pulse of this town and knows community when he sees it. I loved hearing Glen’s take on the Ottawa social media scene from the very beginning. You know, back before social media was dubbed “social media”. Glen has made it his mission to promote these communities since the late 90s. Yeah, he was community-building before building communities was cool.

“Proceed until apprehended” - Stacey, with Keenan and Shannon to her left.From the morning keynote, I moved on to a session in which I was moderating a panel on social change through social media. The speakers, Shannon Smith, Stacey Diffin-Lafleur and Keenan Wellar, each had interesting stories to tell and words of wisdom for those in attendance. From Shannon’s insights about dealing with being unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight as an individual to Keenan’s bold declaration that “[many volunteer organization’s] processes suck” to Stacey’s motto, “proceed until apprehended” that clearly shows her indomitable spirit and commitment to her work.

All three have been learning how to use social media tools to advance their respective causes. This is one of the areas of social media that is inspiring to me - the sincere desire to bring about positive change in the world.

My friend, Cherie-Lynn, made me smile then caught it on camera. :)The second session I attended was Craig Fitzpatrick’s where he generated lively discussion after a presentation that, in some ways, challenged the way people looked at social media from a marketing perspective. “Community = Channel.” It was a great presentation that included advising users to choose to do things that are measurable and that Klout should rebrand itself “reach” instead of “influence”. Reach is measurable. Influence…well, it’s not so easy to measure.

The word “unconference” started being thrown around during Craig’s session in the tweets going through my stream. It was gratifying to see such energetic discussion about a topic that deserves careful thought.

By the third session, I was feeling slightly numb - probably due to waking at an unreasonable hour after being up to an unreasonable hour (funny how that works). So I know that a good chunk of the presentations from Kneale Mann and Dennis Van Staalduinen didn’t sink in completely. Kneale and Dennis came at the broad topic of social media strategy from very different perspectives. Kneale is a proponent of the human web and creating human connections. He brought up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and related it to employee motivation - a concept I’m not unfamiliar with from my days of working in an employee survey firm as it was the basis for our surveys.

When Kneale finished, Dennis got up and gave us a crash course on how a major brand with a major campaign that goes insanely viral can ultimately crash and burn, destroying the brand in the process. I already cringe when I hear someone say, “Let’s do a viral video!” Hearing Dennis’ story makes me want to stay well away from those who think viral is the answer to everything. People relate to stories and respond to simplicity. Going over the top sets the bar so high that there’s rarely anywhere else to go but down.

Is your head spinning? Mine was.

Talking Facebook - it was a very interesting conversation!After all that, I lead a roundtable about Facebook. It was a fantastic way to end the day. Some stayed in my group for the full hour and a half and others came and went so they could visit other groups to talk about different subjects. The discussion about Facebook ran from basic to strategic questions and challenged me to think about how I’d use this tool more effectively as well.

At the end of the day, I was thoroughly exhausted but on a happy high of success.

WE DID IT! And we did it well. It’s hard to say what I learned more from - planning this conference or attending it. Start to finish, it was an extremely valuable experience that I am looking forward to doing again.

 This is the Social Capital Organizizing Committee - Sara, Andrea, Becky, Me, Lara and Vicky who was unable to stay for the whole day. These are amazing ladies that I am honoured to have been able to work with.

*****

Thank you to my friends, Sara and Cherie-Lynn, for the fabulous pictures I’ve used in this post!

I don't love Facebook; I just like what it's done for me

I live approximately 1,500 miles from my hometown, Tallahassee, Florida. All my family still live in the U.S. and I don’t get to see them nearly as much as I’d like. I left behind a lifetime’s worth of friendships that are hard to maintain over time and distance.

Just when I thought I’d probably never see or hear from my long distance friends, along comes Facebook and my friends list exploded overnight. 

I joined Facebook in summer of 2007. At first, I really didn’t use it much. I had one friend - the person who invited me - for quite a while. After making my first connection with someone I hadn’t seen in years, I began to see the value of this thing called Facebook. I started seeking people out - searching for names of people I hadn’t seen since high school, wanting to know where they were and what they were doing, how their lives were going.

There were two people I was almost desperate to reconnect with. But every attempt to find them was fruitless, either because the search results were so abundant that I didn’t have a prayer of a chance of picking the right one, or because they hadn’t signed up to the time-sucking vampire that is Facebook.

It turns out that, among my oldest friends, I was the early-adopter of this particular social media addiction. The first of the two people I was eagerly waiting to hear from popped up about a year after I joined. Dawn and I lost touch because of email address changes and technology fails in the form of lost data. Her first message to me was, “You have a child!” That made me smile, even though it was sad that I didn’t get to share that news with her a lot sooner. Dawn was a very dear friend I met when we both showed up to our first studio class in the same jacket. We were both voice students in the music education program at Florida State University. We bonded over our identical jackets and eventually shared many classes together - the best being grad student Tracy’s Music Theory class.

The second person I was anxious to find on Facebook finally showed up last week. She and I spent our last five years in school together. We met in 8th grade when she came to my school new. We were both sort of anomolies - she was the new student and I was the home-schooled student who came for band. (Yeah, I was a band nerd like that.) We were BFFs through all four years of high school. She was a majorette and I was on the flag corps. We had lively and respectful discussions about our differing beliefs during our many sleepovers - as well as a few fairly embarrassing writing sessions. (I hope we burned those notebooks so our kids don’t get their hands on them.)

When I saw her name pop up on my news feed on Facebook, I wanted to do cartwheels. It has been almost 10 years since we had any contact and I’ve missed her very much. I’m so happy to have her back in my life again. Every attempt I made to find her previously was unsuccessful, but I knew we’d cross paths somehow, someday.

Facebook gets a lot of flack - and rightly so - for it’s cavalier attitude about privacy and not knowing how to make things opt-in instead of opt-out. But I can’t regret that I’m on there, nor will I delete my account anytime soon. Because, to me, it’s too valuable to be able to connect with people who are dear to me on a regular basis in the small ways that I get to connect with them on Facebook. Several of my family members are on there now as well and that’s been so exciting for me.

Certain people wonder why I love blogging and social media as much as I do. Well, this is a huge part of why I love it and am so involved in it. It’s all about the connections I can maintain with people I don’t get to see anymore. For me, Facebook and my blog in particular have significantly decreased the distance I feel from my loved ones and I hope they feel closer to me as well.

So, what about you? What do you get from social networks you’re involved in? 

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.

How girly are you? (My opinion, analysis and rants about a Facebook quiz.)

Last night, I was up very late due to insomnia and logged into Facebook. I saw a quiz called "How GIRLY are you?" and decided to take it. When I took the quiz at 12:30am, the quiz said I was 62% girly, which I think is fairly accurate. After seeing a friend who I consider to be quite a girly-girl get 12%, I decided to try again and I ended up with 12% as well. Obviously, I answered slightly differently the second time around, though I do think I was honest each time I took it, at least based on my mood at the time. My results as well as others' have sparked a bit of discussion, from maintaining your girly side as a mother of boys to what exactly "girly-ness" is.

After getting such drastically different results, I decided to take a closer look at the questions. Let me say first, though, that I do not believe these quizzes are scientific or an accurate indicator of any individual's personality; they are just for fun. Besides, as you'll see if you read on, these six questions with the limited responses provided don't cover nearly enough of the variables that can go into determining girly-ness.

1) Do you get manicures regularly?
(Options: Very Rarely, On special occasions or when I feel like pampering myself, No, Yes!)

My answer: Very Rarely. I used to have acrylic nails that I kept up for quite a while. Then I got tired of maintaining them and, for me, it was kind of a painful process. I gave that up and grew out my real nails. (Piece of advice: never get acrylics - they are both literally and figuratively a pain.) The only manicures I've ever had were gifts; I have never decided to go get one myself and paid for it.

Do manicures make you girly? I suppose it depends on your view of them. I do them myself when I have the time and desire. For me, it's more about grooming than girly-ness, unless it's a special occasion.

2) How many pairs of heels do you own?
(Options: I don't have any heels, 1-2, 3-4, 5+)

My answer: 1-2. Some of the girliest women I know do not wear heels. If a high heel is more than about 1.5 inches, I find it's more of a torture device than a shoe. I love shoes; I love pretty shoes, practical shoes, but most of all, I love comfortable shoes. I drag my one or two pairs of heels out on days when I want to project a strong, professional, put-together image - usually 2-3 times a year when I'm in a business casual work environment. For me, they are also essentially about grooming. And my girly-ness quotient gets knocked down a bit more when you factor in that I only ever wear them with pants. I haven't worn a dress in years! (Yeah, where was the question about dresses/skirts!?)

Do heels make you girly? I tend to think that Mary Janes are a far more "girly" shoe - or anything with bows on them - remember Sam & Libbys? Heels are the shoe of the strong, sexy, confident woman who wants to make a statement. My opinion is that heels don't qualify as girly. Though girly women do wear them, I tend to think of kitten heels as the girly form of them.

3) How long does it take you to get dressed in the morning?
(Options: 5-10 minutes, 10-30 minutes, 30-60 minutes, Over 1 hour)

My answer: 10-30 minutes OR 30-60 minutes. Most of the time, my morning prep lasts 40 minutes if I'm getting ready to go to work or have appointments or any other scheduled place to be. The days when I don't have anywhere to go and don't intend to try to impress anyone, 10-30 minutes is more than sufficient. And every few weeks, I'll soak in the tub and then it's definitely over an hour.

Does taking a long time to get ready in the morning make you girly? Probably. I was a lot girlier as a teenager and spent loads of time picking just the right outfit, making sure every hair on my head was in place and my makeup was picture perfect before I ever walked out the door. I think this one is a decent indicator of "girly-ness".

4) What is your favorite color?
(Options: Black, Pink, Red, Blue)

My Answer: Red. Talk about a loaded question, since 50% of the responses are pink and blue! Can we get off the pink for girls, blue for boys stereotype? I would dress my son in red and green 24/7 just to be contrary to that if I could. Unfortunately, most boys' clothes are blue! I hate this question as an indicator of girly-ness. My favorite color is purple (actually, eggplant or aubergine purple to be specific). Though red is a close second and I actually have a lot more clothes and other items that are red than purple.

Does your favorite color make you girly? This one depends a great deal on what you do with the color rather than the color itself. Do you cover your entire house in it and only ever buy clothes that color? Then you're possibly girly - even if your fave color is green or even blue! (There are baby blue colored clothes that I have refused to consider buying my son because I felt they might make him look girly.) Do you fill your life with lots of different colors and reserve your favorite color for favorite/special items? I don't see that as girly at all. There are far too many variables to this question for it to be an accurate indicator.

5) How many boys have liked you in the past 5 years?
(Options: 0-1, 2-3, 4-5, 6+)

My answer: 0-1. The one would be my son; he's a boy. My husband likes me, too, but he's a MAN (who, though I tease him about being a boy, he really is a man - and is probably rolling his eyes as he reads this).

With that brief explanation out of the way: ARE YOU KIDDING ME????? How is this even remotely relevant to girly-ness? Males are attracted to/interested in females for so many reasons that to even suggest that girly-ness is a primary factor (in general) on the NUMBER of males who "like" you is simply ludicrous.

6) Which of these activities are you most interested in?
(Options: Football, Gymnastics, Art, Ballet)

My Answer: Initially art; on the re-take, football. The truth is, I don't really have an interest in any of these options, though I like music, which is an art (but probably not the intended meaning of that particular choice). I picked football the second time because I am a lifetime Florida State University football fan, though I'm not a die-hard or dedicated follower of the team now that I don't have access to the games anymore.

Do activities make you girly? Not in my opinion; they make you well-rounded and interested in things outside of yourself (hopefully). My personal favorite activity is reading, which surely transcends any gender stereotypes and was not listed.

My Two Cents (if it's worth that much): Girly-ness is just too difficult to define and certainly not easily determined by a Facebook quiz. Every woman has girly facets to their personality and often it is an opinion based on biases and experience of those making the observation. Is there anything wrong with being girly? No. Women should feel free to express their femininity in the way(s) they are comfortable - even if the expression of femininity translates into "girly" behaviors. Whether it's taking a private Saturday soak in the tub or wearing a pretty pink dress to work.