Sharing without pausing for thought risks making fools of us – as individuals and as communities.
Critical consumption in internet use (crap detection as Howard Rheingold puts it) is a skill, or literacy, citizens of the web have been honing for years. We have build good habits – wondering about the provenance of data in a blog post, who is behind a campaigning website, checking the edit history of a Wikipedia article before we trust its accuracy.
Take the case of Kim Stafford. An act of fancy dress satire leads to online mob-bullying of a student by people who take her lampooning of Tea Party types.
People think they know what they are seeing, think that the context is the conversation. The thing about mobs is if you’re not alert to your actions and intentions, you don’t necessarily know you are part of one.
Uncritical sharing, guileless passing on of memes and stories online doesn’t just matter in extreme cases like this – it’s an everyday affair.
We see the image, and pass judgement and share before we really know what is going on. News organisations have struggled with with the tension between immediacy and truth as news breaks for years – increasingly it also a matter of individual responsibility and perhaps reputation.
People – friends, colleagues and connections alike – think less of someone, pay less attention to them, turn down the volume if their judgement is continually off the mark in what they say and share online.
We have all felt that pang of embarrassment, mixed in with surprise and a little annoyance, when someone we thought was intelligent re-posts a dismal listicle, urban myth or ridiculous scare story. Sometimes a little gentle mocking in reply, or a discreet correction will help them realise their error.
As a product that is both on-your-face and in-your-face, Glass is set to become a lightning rod for a wider discussion around what constitutes acceptable behavior in public and private spaces. The Glass debate has already started, but these are early days; each new iteration of hardware and functionality will trigger fresh convulsions. In the short term, Glass will trigger anger, name-calling, ridicule and the occasional bucket of thrown water (whether it’s ice water, I don’t know). In the medium term, as societal interaction with the product broadens, signs will appear in public spaces guiding mis/use1 and lawsuits will fly, while over the longer term, legislation will create boundaries that reflect some form of im/balance between individual, corporate and societal wants, needs and concerns.
In Kevin Kelly’s What Technology Wants thesis, Google Glass is an inevitability – we could see it coming a mile off. Ban it if you like, ignore it if you like, but you can’t un-invent it or the technologies it bundles together.
We are surrounded by thousands of cameras and microphones everyday in the hands of our fellow citizens. Some even play with surveillance drones at the weekend.
All of this technology will only get more common, cheaper, smaller.
This week serendipitously I spoke about managing your own reputation online two days running. Tweets about Andrew Keen’s speech in Berlin Southampton today and an article in the New Statesman have made me think it’s a subject I should return to and re-think in light of the way that with trolls and Twitter mobs making the headlines seemingly every week.
Privacy gets in the way of advertising business models as well as the secret police, which is why managing your privacy settings on services from your browser to Facebook is often unnecessarily complicated. It may not be a conspiracy to stop you from guarding your data, but there isn’t a perceived incentive to make this stuff really useful for the networks.
Or for anyone else. Apart from Ad Blocker web browser extensions and a clutch of very geeky tools used by activists and cautious geeks, there aren’t mass market tools and services to help people control how their data is used, how their personal becomes public…
Google’s recognised this, sort of… At least Paul Adams did in his masterpiece of a research paper on social networks – The Real Life Social Network – at Google (I note he is now at Facebook). Then we thought we’d see Google Circles, an social network designed to help with this managing of your content and conversations. But then we didn’t.
Thing is, privacy – what we want from it, what we actually mean by it, etc. – is complicated. As I discussed at Local Social Summit last year, privacy can mean all sorts of things. Privacy is proxy issue for fears and doubts about life with the web and with technology more broadly.
Anyway, back to the BlackBerry ad. I wonder if this sells phones. I wonder if privacy will sell other stuff too. I wonder if – as Alan Patrick – privacy itself is something that will be sold (as a service, a premium package, whatever…).
Image: An email from LinkedIn prompting me to tell my network what I’m up to…
Yesterday I had a conversation with someone who told me that over the past year that had learned how to use LinkedIn and that they reckoned that they could directly attribute several hundred thousand pounds of profit to it. Not vaguely, not hypothetically – they knew exactly which items on their balance sheet were the result of doing things because of and through that social network tool.
They were a fiftysomething avowedly non-techie businessperson in a service industry and I found their account of their experience very useful, as it had the fresh perspective of someone outside of the connected world I most live in.
They were of course highly successful in their field already, and implicitly understood the importance of personal networks in business.
Their nightmare scenario in business was missing out on an opportunity because they weren’t in the right place at the right time, that they weren’t front of mind when someone in their sector was pulling together a short-list for a contract or similar. What Twitter was doing was helping them to increase both their presence and profile in their personal network and their ability to listen to the needs of their connections and contacts.
These were some of the points they related which stuck with me…
Paying attention to what is happening: They weren’t a compulsive checker of what was happening on their LinkedIn account, they used a weekly email update to see who was doing new things, connecting with someone else, saying interesting things or asking for help on status updates.
Light-touch presence: They update their status every now and again, but had grasped that in LinkedIn less can often be more. I agree with this, which is why I don’t connect Linkedin to Twitter. In Twitter I am much more chatty, and when the mood takes me update several times a day or even hour. In LinkedIn that’s not useful – I leave status updates there only when something significant has happened, or I am travelling somewhere that I think I might meet others from my network or I am looking for input on a particular project or issue. They also mentioned that changing their photograph or updating their profile details every few months was a useful way of keeping (sociologists would call that a phatic expression – the online equivalent of waving as you pass or saying “hi” briefly).
Being useful to their network: As well as answering obvious business opportunities, they stressed the importance of connecting others who would be useful to one another, when they spotted an opportunity. This connecting behaviour is a classic networking approach, and one that leaves everyone feeling positive toward one another. Often it can also result in direct or indirect commercial benefits for the connector.
LinkedIn is a productivity, networking super-charger: It’s not just about LinkedIn, of course – it is about understanding your personal networks and how to behave, to be useful in them. Tools like Linkedin accelerate and augment our ability to successfully work with our networks, in them, through them. But the real, underlying superskill as I’m calling it at the moment, is all about networks.
“I hope you’re not Tweeting this…” Image (cc) Marcn.
Bill Clinton has never been attention-shy, but apparently he isn’t keen on Twitter-based attention, at least not during his speeches.
Some commenters on the RWW piece where I heard about this suggest he wants everyone in the room to give him their full attention. From the Primary Colours caricature, that would be a palusible explanation, but since no explanation has been offered by his team, we don’t really know.
Maybe as an exemplar of the the pre-web communications arts, he fears the backchannel?
Or now that Twitter and Facebook posting are so main stream are we seeing the beginning of a bit of a backlash as we go through a norming process about how we pay attention and communicate during speeches?
I wonder if we will see more policies like this for speakers? Who would be able to get away with it? Will there be anti-Twitter goons on patrol to enforce it?
Mikalah uses Facebook but when she goes to log out, she deactivates her Facebook account. She knows that this doesn’t delete the account – that’s the point. She knows that when she logs back in, she’ll be able to reactivate the account and have all of her friend connections back. But when she’s not logged in, no one can post messages on her wall or send her messages privately or browse her content. But when she’s logged in, they can do all of that. And she can delete anything that she doesn’t like. Michael Ducker calls this practice “super-logoff” when he noticed a group of gay male adults doing the exact same thing.
Mikalah is not trying to get rid of her data or piss of her friends. And she’s not. What she’s trying to do is minimize risk when she’s not present to actually address it.
It goes to show that despite a platform’s desire to push people into disclosure by default, users will find ways to make their own choices about how publicness works. Because for many young people not being on Facebook just isn’t an option.
I asked Shamika why she bothered with Facebook in the first place, given that she sent over 1200 text messages a day. Once again, she looked at me incredulously, pointing out that there’s no way that she’d give just anyone her cell phone number. Texting was for close friends that respected her while Facebook was necessary to be a part of her school social life. And besides, she liked being able to touch base with people from her former schools or reach out to someone from school that she didn’t know well. Facebook is a lighter touch communication structure and that’s really important to her. But it doesn’t need to be persistent to be useful.
In the comments and related Tweets to this post, we can see that this hacking of the way Facebook works to suit personal reputation / presence management is common. One Tweet from @Tremblebot says their students call it “Whitewalling” or “Whitewashing”, and that the practice requires an investment up front and then makes it easy to stay on top of what people are posting about in the way of comments, tags and photos.
Perhaps this is something I should add the second edition of Me and My Web Shadow in the workflow for managing reputation. Certainly, if Facebook were to take a leaf out of Twitter’s playbook it would think about adding this as an easier to use or more prevalent feature.
“Whitewalling” also looks like evidence for the notion that people, yes even digital natives, want to retain some control over their privacy and what the world sees and hears about them.
Interesting to read of the English teacher who encourages their pupils to cyber-stalk strangers. It’s an excellent, practical lesson for them about just how much information people reveal about themselves online, often without considering the consequences.
Wanting to teach the kids in my class about concepts of digital footprint and online safety, I used three people well known from the edusphere as examples: Will Richardson, Jabiz Raisdana and Jeff Utecht. I introduced these three friends to the students in my class by giving them only a photo and a name. I simply told the kids in my class: find out all you can about these three guys.
The students made a list of places to search. They started with simply Google and then soon expanded to other places such as flickr, youtube, twitter, wordpress, linkedin, delicious and facebook. They expanded into a Yahoo domain search and searching other sites such as whois.net. Soon their lists of information began to grow.
Take a look at his blog post to see the detail they uncovered and noted on their classroom flip-charts. Granted the stalking targets are people who have chosen to live in plain sight online for some time, but the exercise is still a very useful one. This is an example of just one:
Stalk. Stalking. Stalkerish. These are words which have found their way from the news pages into everyday vocabulary.
At the irritating, but mostly harmless end of things, I’ve heard young people describing someone who won’t take being ignored lightly (posting to their Facebook wall when texts, emails and DMs have been ignored is described as “stalkerish”).
Slightly more blood-chillingly there are the encounters with strangers that remind us that living in public online is not something to take too lightly. Shea Sylvia’s account of an unsettling phonecallin a restaurant from an unknown other while eating at a restaurant, is a reminder for us all that geotagging out location openly may not always be a good idea.
What a fantastic way, then, this teacher has found to show young people how managing their web shadow (or digital footprint as he terms it) is something to take very seriously indeed.
The recent Community & Marketing 2.0 event in Hamburg presented an opportunity to remix my book and my iCrossing work once again.
I’d not visited Hamburg before and this trip was all too brief, but I’m definitely heading back soon, hopefully for a break rather than work.
Before setting off I had a Skype conversation with Sebastian Kiel of the Social Media PReview podcast about marketing, the social web and the way businesses are changing, which I thought went quite well. The beginning is in German, but then it switches to English. If you’re interested, have a listen here (MP3 file)….