Privacy legislation and teenagers: Leave me and my Facebook alone!

Developing an adolescent network of friends

Being a teenager, for me, was largely a trial-and-error process of figuring out how to be an adult. I wanted autonomy, I wanted to succeed, and I wanted to be able to ask for help — but only on my terms. I created a “family” of friends, relying on them for the moral support and frames of reference that I had previously looked to my relatives for. We muddled our way through adolescence, as I imagine most teens do, trying to work out together how to handle our uncertain futures, new relationships and the stress of achieving good grades. We learned together.

Underneath that bonding and grouping, I distinctly remember not just drifting from my family but actively setting up blocks. “I want to do this my way, by myself!” was a big mantra of those years. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote in the 1890s that the US Constitution guarantees “the right to be let alone—the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men”. I was pretty positive Brandeis was writing right to me; as a (self-declared) civilised almost-adult, I thought that right was sacrosanct. I wanted to be let alone with my friends.

Social Networking – the online models of our groups of friends

Feet of friendsSocial networking platforms like Facebook, Myspace and Bebo allow teenagers to intensify their relationships with members of their group. In creating a profile or home page, they can create and re-create their own identities, experimenting with who they are and how they want to be seen. They get to identify themselves with social groups, be seen as belonging (through displaying their friends) and discover who else belongs with whom. And best of all — the parents aren’t invited. This is a world of their own, ideally suited to the adolescent’s social development.

Privacy legislation and teenagers

The tension: Protecting the kids or invading their privacy?

If we can extrapolate my experience to a majority of Internet-using teenagers, social networking sites are supporting them in the social development they’re already doing. The challenge comes in building new relationships, where the lack of context can make it easy for someone with a nefarious agenda to mislead the unsuspecting. (See previous post.) The quick intimacy teenagers build can mask the fact that they don’t actually know who is on the other end of the conversation.

Recent US legislation has attempted to minimise the risks to kids. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) prohibits site operators from collecting personal data from kids under 13 without verifiable parental consent, and removes their liability for disclosing information to the parent about the child. In a previous post, I have discussed the proposed Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006, and this week the Georgia Senate has begun to consider a bill that would raise the age of parental consent to 18. No minors in Georgia would be allowed to engage in social networks without their parents having full access.

At the same time, the chief privacy officer for Facebook, Chris Kelly, maintains that they are restricted from sharing activity and profile content with parents by federal law. “Under the Federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, we cannot give anyone access to or control of an individual’s profile on Facebook”, Kelly said. In addition to the overhead if they were required to open up all that data and verify which parent belongs to which kid, the inevitable response would be diminished site activity. If kids knew that Mom and Dad could listen in, they would find somewhere else to talk.

(Facebook of course has an interest in keeping activity levels high and therefore maintaining its revenue stream, which appears to be advertising-based. But it would fall short of its goal of “helping people better understand the world around them” if everyone restrained their contributions to each other’s world views because they felt they were being spied on.)

How do we sort this out?

Biking – shadowsIf we go back to my assertion that social networking is modelling interactions and social development that we all do anyway, then the dangers aren’t actually that new. As an offline teenager, I was certainly taught not to give my address to anyone I didn’t know, and not to talk to strangers. I knew to look both ways before crossing the street. I knew how to listen for conversational cues that I was talking to someone with bad motives, and to recognise that friends of friends aren’t necessarily okay just because they come with a “reference” from somebody I know. All these messages kept me safe in the big bad real world, and I knew them because I was taught.

Teenagers need to form groups, to share information and to grow with their friends. And to establish a bit of independence from their families. Social networking can support this growth, but someone needs to make sure that online safety is included with the “surviving in the real world” lessons every kid gets either at home or at school. Particularly because parents are less involved in the conversation than they were when the children were younger, teenagers must be well prepared to make good decisions on their own. Unfortunately, legislation restricting access or allowing parents to “eavesdrop” won’t teach good judgment. Nor will applying privacy legislation — many kids wouldn’t figure this out on their own. Parents, teachers and role models are still ultimately responsible for these almost-adults, and it should be up to these adults to prepare them properly.

The spam of my blog

Because it’s a Friday, and because this has made me laugh through the week, I’d like to share with you a bit about my blog’s spam.

Quick background: let me help you boost your search ranking

Google ranks web pages based on a formula which includes their popularity (measured by how many other pages have links that point to it — see the classic Google paper Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Search Engine for more details). Consequently, the more pages out there refer to yours, the better your chances are of ending up near the top of the Google Results list when someone does a search. If you’re out to artificially inflate that ranking, planting links to your site around the web will boost your ratings. The higher your ranking, the more users will notice you, the more traffic you will get, and the more advertising revenue or potential sales you’ll land by getting them (figuratively) through the door.

The spam of my blog

And where to plant links to your site? Blog comments! Most blogging software will let you post more or less what you like, in HTML, on endless pages within the millions of blogs out there. (Note: at press time, Technorati is currently tracking 69.2 million blogs. And they haven’t got the whole blogosphere. The field is vast.)

We do have anti-spam software that filters spam comments, for example by the number of links a post contains. We blog-holders are not captive to the wills of blog spammers. But my spam filter, Akismet, kindly holds the spam comments it detects for my review. It is from this week’s list of Akismet spam from my blog that I pull the following trends.

This past week, I’ve kept a particular eye on my blog’s spam. Since I delete them and you never get to see how funny they are, I thought I’d pull up a few to share with you.

The spam of my blog

Because they’re just out to get their links up on my site, the spammers have to convince me to post (or not delete) their comment. Each spam post begins with a little commentary around the links they are promoting, a feeble effort to catch my attention or fool me into thinking it’s a legitimate comment. These are what amuse me, and what I want to show to you.

A number of them are complimentary to my site or a particular post.

Hi! Guys how you manage to make such perfect sites? Good fellows!
(This was for debt consolidation services. I like the idea of being called “fellows”. Apt for a lone female running the site.)

With posts like this how long before we give up the newspaper?!!

(This was a site just trying to generate traffic. But I like that they’re referencing the whole Web 2.0-threatens-mainstream-media debate.)

This is a cool site! Thanks and wish you better luck!

(This was a comment selling replica handbags. It was posted on my Privacy Legislation and Teenagers post. It’s nice of them to, er, extend their sympathies… but I didn’t find that article so difficult to write! I imagine this was written with a more emotional blog in mind.)

That was a very nice post, I’m proud of you.

(Now that’s sweet. It recurs regularly, and even though I’m not interested in the loans and refinancing it offers, the comment always makes me feel good about the hard work I put into my blog.)

Some are just unrelated to the links. I got this romantic text under the subject heading of Cheap Shopping:
Lorsque la main d’un homme effleure la main d’une femme, tous deux touchent a l’éternité.
(Rough translation: “As the man’s hand brushes the woman’s, both of them touch eternity.” It may actually be syrupy enough to warrant the painkillers they were touting.)

Another tries to play the sympathy card:

My life’s been generally bland. I’ve just been letting everything happen without me. I don’t care. I’ve just been sitting around doing nothing, but eh.
(This came with a gmail address, and just to be sure I sent them an email asking if everything was okay. Hey, I’m a nice person! Not surprisingly, the message bounced. I then discovered that the link URL was a pointer which resolved to a site selling Viagra.)

I got one yesterday that was actually honest. No preamble, just a long list of links titled Greats from me: . I still didn’t post it, and I don’t need the sleep aids that were listed below, but I do appreciate the forthright approach.

For sheer creativity, as well as honesty in marketing, my current favourite is this one:

Hello.

If your site getting constantly spammed, then you are in urgent need of a new folding table
Check these: folding poker tables
Sincerely yours,
folding tables seller

That did catch my attention. I had to laugh. A salesman who knows their market! I’m impressed that they thought about what drives me as a consumer. It’s too bad that I can’t see how a folding table would solve my spam issues, but if they want to come back and leave a comment about it, I will be happy to approve it for posting.

Bulgaria sees the value in tech growth

I’ve recently returned from a trip to Bulgaria and was struck by a country in economic and technological transition. The apartment blocks and factories, remnants of an industrial Communist era now past, clashed sharply with the modest stone-and-wood houses built by occupants who might herd goats or raise roosters in the garden. Overlaid atop this architectural tug-of-war across the countryside (no doubt simmering since the Soviet Army invaded in 1944) are signs of technological infrastructure and Western prosperity.

Bulgaria sees the value in tech growth

The billboards at Sofia airport for Hewlett-Packard and our other favourite technology companies were my first evidence that the country is growing both with through technology tools and with the innovation funds that their creator companies bring. The technology sector already accounts for 10% of Bulgaria’s GDP and the country is proud of it.

“There is no doubt the ‘old’ EU member states, for all their experience, could learn from what we have been doing in Bulgaria in terms of economic growth and competitiveness,” said Sergei Stanishev, Bulgarian prime minister, last week. Stanishev spoke in a pre-Spring EU summit in Brussels.

Bulgaria sees the value in tech growth
Bulgaria sees the value in tech growth

Stanishev’s pride wasn’t just talk — I was particularly impressed with the Bansko ski resort, boasting new Doppelmayr ski lifts and the RFID-based Skidata passes that allowed us skiers through a turnstile and straight onto the lift. Far more efficient than checking paper passes by hand! Bansko seems to have been planned out with technology and efficiency in mind.gondola at Bansko

Stanishev did admit that intellectual property protections (among other things) remain a challenge for Bulgaria to become a competitor in the world technology market. Yesterday, Bulgaria’s EU Commissioner Meglena Kuneva made effort towards laying down IP policy for the country. Weighing in on the international iTunes music debate in her capacity as European Commissioner for Consumers, Kuneva said, “[I do not find it] proper that a music CD can be played on all trademarks of players, but the music sold in iTunes can be played only on an iPod.” Taking this leadership role for the EU in such a high-stakes IP struggle could be significant for Bulgaria. Watch this space.

It appears that this beautiful country, which joined the EU at the beginning of this year, has every intention of becoming a major player in the tech economy. Today’s news announces that they have just been slated to receive €7 billion in EU funding over the next 7 years — I’m quite keen to see what they accomplish with it.

DIY Publicity: promoting your band through social networking

A friend of mine has a band. They are great musicians and fun people — the consumate performers. They are busily working their contacts in the music industry and in discussions with record labels for contracts. They have a lot going for them, but when it comes to gigs… Disappointingly few people turn up. Why is that?

The band has a page on Myspace, which as been running for about 18 months. It holds about 1,500 friends, which, given how many people these guys have performed for and how many friends those audience members all have… It’s a fraction of the number it could be, and still doesn’t explain why less than 1% of them are coming out to gigs. Their events should be mobbed. So what can the band do?

1) Expand the fan base with everyone you already know. They’ll do the work for you.

This is a concerted effort, a planned attack. Make a list of every musician you’ve ever worked with, every girl who’s ever batted her eyelashes (this band is fronted by cute boys, so there should be plenty), every family member you’ve got, community members (including old teachers, parents of friends, friends of parents, etc. etc. etc.), music execs, people you chat to after gigs… You want to engage everyone you’ve ever met — and then some.

DIY Publicity
DIY Publicity

Generally, when you’re starting a band, the whole world wants to see you succeed. You just need to tap into that enthusiasm. They feel special to be involved, and you’re doing something they probably wouldn’t have the courage to. All you need to do is to make them feel involved, and they’ll rush to support you.

2) Give your supporters something to do.

Keep reminding yourself: They WANT to help. So you want them to stay engaged. When you first tell them, “Hey, we’re starting a band” (or “Things are going well, we’ve got a gig next week”, wherever you are in the process) and they say “That’s great! Well done!” (which is usually accompanied by the thought, “I’m really impressed. And so glad it’s not me! I wouldn’t have a clue how sing/play/perform!”) , JUMP ON IT. Capitalise on the fact that they’re feeling both in awe and a little inadequate by giving them the chance to get involved and help where they can.

Production in the studio – behind the scenesStart with a little status update that doesn’t have to mean much but feels “behind the scenes” (explain that you are doing your best with the recording/the rehearsing/the chasing up new drummer), but that you’d love to keep them posted on your activities. (And/or will want to let them know the second the album is released or the new video goes into production, etc.) Point them to your social networking site and tell them to become your friend… This is the ultimate WATCH THIS SPACE move. They’re now watching.

3) Give them a reason to stay involved.

They love you; show that somebody’s home at your end of the conversation. This means new content on your site every 3-4 days. Something, anything. Thoughts, plans, a silly story from rehearsal, a “this week we worked on X” rundown, frustrations with production, anything. Blogs are particularly good for this kind of chit-chat. It doesn’t have to say

anything detailed about any person or song; just that you’re still there, and you care enough about these people to keep this conversation going.

Remind them REGULARLY (once every week or two) that you’re busy working on all this. These reminders should find them (bulletins, emails — anything that lands in their lap, as opposed to them having to come to your page to find it). Create hype. Be consistent about it.

This will keep these guys engaged while you keep adding new ones to the list. And your numbers will grow!

4) Translate it into ticket and album sales.

Concert ticketsYour final goal is that by the time you release the date of your next gig, every last person on your now doubled friends list will be chomping at the bit to be there to support you. They’re going to care enough that even if they can’t go, they’ll send someone on their behalf.

The same should be true with album sales. Because they feel like they “got in at the ground level” and helped you along the way, they’re emotionally invested. They’re going to cry more than you will when you get your Mercury prize.

5) Recognise how easy this is.

Social networking sites work because you establish instant access to all the people you’d want to be talking to anyway, in the real world. You have their attention, and are giving them an easy way to showcase your efforts to everyone they know. 99% of it is just a method of keeping track of, and keeping involved, the people that your music touches in reality.

Nobody’s loyal to a band they run into online — we respond to hype. We explore suggestions from friends, we try not to get left out of a trend, and we follow through on a strong desire to help “real people” try to make it. So give your fan base a way to hype you and to introduce their friends to your music. Let them work FOR you.

And while you’ve got their attention — don’t forget to tell them how much you love them and how grateful you are. In the same way that you’d thank a friend who drove for miles to be there and cheer you on, let these people know you care. With a good effort on a social networking site, you can do that for all of them at once. You’ll quickly build a huge group who feel personally connected to you and your music.

Now that they’re listening, the rest is up to you. Give them something fabulous to listen to!

We the people vs Facebook, Google et al

It’s interesting to me that these issues are based in the same quandry: how do we, as a society, deal with placing the control of our content in the hands of a few big providers?

The writers and the publishers – a contract

User-generated content comes out of a relationship: the writers (us) write things, generate data through web activities, and create links to people, while the hosts (Facebook and Google, here) gather the information and do neat things with it. They share our posts with our friends, connect us with ads that might interest us, and host our status updates and regulate who sees what we are up to.

The first two links are public retaliations for what the plaintiffs feel is a betrayal of trust by Google and Facebook. They put their trust in these two tools to safeguard their content. They are unhappy that Google and Facebook changed the rules (or perhaps violated their side of the agreement) with the users by changing the defaults on what information is public.

This, to me, is an age-old “breach of contract” question. Have Google and Facebook in fact violated the terms of service, to which they agreed when each user opened an account with them? And if so, what do they owe us?

We the people vs Facebook, Google
We the people vs Facebook, Google

Making amends

The next story is about Facebook, having heard the outcry (well represented by the aforementioned lawsuit) and attempting to re-establish good will. Though they aren’t admitting that they have done anything wrong, they appear to be trying to regain some of the trust they lost in November and December by offering users more control over who sees posts from the various applications they use. (The example cited in the Facebook blog explanation: I’ll let the Someecards app post to my close friends only, but My Causes can post to everyone including the boss.)

As the Facebook announcement says, “Facebook is designed to give you control over the information you share.” I think they are hoping that even greater control will result in a stronger feeling of contract and trust between the users and their tools.

Be careful what you say…

“The danger is publicly telling people where you are. This is because it leaves one place you’re definitely not… home.”

Pleaserobme.com

Pleaserobme.com is a tongue-in-cheek reminder that all information posted on the web is public. Also that most posts can be added to other bits of content for more context than we might intend.

Pleaserobme.com takes basic posts to Twitter from the location-based app Foursquare, which announces where a user is when they check in at that location. As the Pleaserobme site says, “The danger is publicly telling people where you are. This is because it leaves one place you’re definitely not… home.”

There are a number of ways to work out where someone lives, not the least of which is that many homes are being added to Foursquare as check-in destinations. Sure it’s nice to know where your friends are, but this could be problematic!

(Side note: when I added a new location to Foursquare on Tuesday, it offered me the choice to have that location be private among my friends. It appears that they are already trying to counter this problem.)

But the idea is that, by announcing on Twitter that I have checked in at a location that isn’t home, then all my valuables at home are open for the taking. Obviously, that’s not good.

As a content-generator in this relationship, I have to be aware of what information I am releasing to my hosting platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Google, etc.) and how that information can be compiled.

Are we making progress?

We can talk at length about the generational change in individual data, and how kids today will grow up happily sharing every last bit of their lives on the Web. (I’m not convinced of this, by the way- I think they will grow out of a lot of their exhibitionism. Caution and desire for privacy often comes with age.)

But these stories represent, to me, an ongoing push-me-pull-you tension of expectations and service provision, as the capabilities and they way they’re used continually race ahead of each other. I think our society and laws will continue to swing back and forth on privacy issues as we re-establish our norms and our expectations for companies that hold our content.

Collaborative learning resources

Just a quick follow-up to my feature on collaborative learning over at LGEO Research…. I’ve been asked for references, so here they are!

e-Learning Anaesthesia (eLA)

This is a joint programme between the Department of Health’s e-Learning for Healthcare (e-LfH) and the Royal College of Anaesthetists. They are collaboratively developing clinically-appropriate, peer-reviewed online learning modules to help trainee anasesthetists to revise for their FRCA exams.

Dimitracopoulou, A. (2005) Designing collaborative learning systems: current trends & future research agenda.

Collaborative learning resources

Computer Support for Collaborative Learning (Proceedings of the 2005 conference on Computer support for collaborative learning: learning 2005: the next 10 years!) Taipei, Taiwan. p 115 – 124.
This is a good background paper on computer-supported collabortive learning (CSCL) and models for the different kinds of systems.

Smith, B. L and MacGregor, J. T. (1992) ‘What is Collaborative Learning?‘ Abbreviation of Smith and MacGregor’s article, “What Is Collaborative Learning?” in Collaborative Learning: A Sourcebook for Higher Education, by Anne Goodsell, Michelle Maher, Vincent Tinto, Barbara Leigh Smith and Jean MacGregor. Pennsylvania State University: National Center on Postsecondary Teaching, Learning, and Assessment.

This paper outlines the theory of collaborative learning (face-to-face or technological).

Baker , M., Quignard, M., Lund, K. & Sejourne A. (2003). Computer-supported collaborative learning in the space of debate. In B.Wasson, S. Ludvigsen and U. Hoppe (eds): CSCL: Designing for Change in Networked Learning Environments, CSCL 2003 congress: 14-18 June 2003, Bergen, Norway, pp.11-20
This paper is about designing collaborative learning spaces. It explains that giving more feedback (for example, dialogue graphs which visually show the user how much they participate) increases the number of arguments a participant contributes.

Uses for Open Data in Social Media

I’m often asked these days why people would bother with open data. (Here, I’m using LinkedGov’s definition of open data.) I thought it would be useful to write down and gather some feedback, see if we can refine these categories further. Thus far, it seems, the uses are boiling down to four categories:

1. Transparency

Broadly speaking, this means getting a better view of what is going on inside the government or the public sector. This audience covers both the non-public sector and the public sector itself.

Examples:

  • Infrastructure: Transport timetables, traffic information or road potholes for a journey planner app.
  • Accountability: Financial and budget statements for armchair auditors
  • Media: Potential headlines and stories for journalists
  • Sharing information resources: Formal research available to inform academic and professional inquiries (for example, data from NHS clinical studies informing projects hosted by universities or industry).

This group also includes management and demographic statistics, like the number of people in a particular benefits program Status and progress updates: performance data, such as the number of outcomes met in a specific project News: announcements about public sector activities, grant opportunities and new ways to interact with government.

Community information: local planning applications, crime statistics or upcoming events that impact a neighborhood.

open data

2. Delivering services to/on behalf of the government

Open data allows commercial and third sector organizations to have a closer relationship with customers and funding sources in government and the public sector.

Examples:

Delivering front-line services on behalf of a governmental or public body: As an example, the train operating companies might benefit from greater access to forecasts of passenger activity from Transport for London.

Marketing to government: If a photocopier sales department can see which public sector offices are likely to need a new photocopier soon, they can target their marketing appropriately.

3. Improving commercial activities outside of government

Many existing business models could benefit significantly from greater access to public data. A few examples:

Smoothing commercial transactions. A tool for selecting the ideal import tariffs or a faster route of calculating tax could provide significant savings for a commercial goods company.

Enhancing an existing offering. A tour operating company could plan more accurately (or prompt their clients to plan better) with weather data from the Met Office.

Targeting marketing. Census data and council tax bands, for example, could help a new company work out where its target market is, helping them to concentrate their comms efforts in the most efficient place

4. Efficiency

Much of the public sector could benefit from better access to their data and the information contained within it. Examples include:

  • Procurement: Comparing costs and existing contracts when looking at procurement for something new.
  • Evidence base: Better informed policy development and decision-making
  • Reducing the load: Fewer inquiries from the public (specifical requests under the Freedom of Information Act) and from within the public sector (for example, parliamentary questions from ministers to civil servants in their department).

What are your thoughts? How can we refine this model and make it more complete?

Why your Business Needs Bookkeeping Right Now

Business owners today failed to maintain their business bookkeeping losing track of your business finances can make you lose your sanity in tax season and ultimately getting you to drag to an IRS audit for having inconsistent bookkeeping. Here are the top reasons why you should be maintaining your bookkeeping for your business.

Establishing a good bookkeeping system from the start can be a huge advantage one of the biggest mistakes business owners make is ignoring their bookkeeping either because they are overawed, or they might conclude their business is too small to were bookkeeping. However, the earlier you start recording all data and expenses, the less stress you will have in tax season.

Why your Business Needs Bookkeeping Right Now

One of the main reason business owners continue to do is separating their personal chequebooks with business books; it is extremely crucial to separate all personal and business transactions. Separate banking will improve all tax procedures, future payment expenses and prevent a business from being missed helping you have a clear picture of expected growth, ultimately having better records help improve your tax return.

One of the main reason business prefer to outsource or just hire an extra employee is to keep their business stress low and free of having to go their invoices daily or weekly to keep having your books in order. Spending and investing in outsourcing or hiring an extra employee is a wise strategy which will lead business having more time to take care of business matters.

If you are currently started a business or don’t have the funds to hire or outsource your bookkeeping needs, you will probably go with option three which is acquiring a software-based program like QuickBooks or fresh books having a daily organize system where you might spend a couple of hours weekly on bookkeeping you’ll likely reduce accounting fees another great resource is using apps like XpenseTracker and ProOnGo which you can download and app store or for Android users at the google play store.

The final step is hiring or outsourcing your bookkeeping before hiring outside help you first need to research and find quality help an extra employee of an outsourcing business can be your company’s financial partner for the rest of your business life. Before hiring help, you will want to understand the basics of bookkeeping which will ultimately help you to hire the correct candidate. Another good option is to get a referral from your attorney or a business friend; another good option is to visit your local society of certified public accountants. Having it outsource is probably the best option which will save you from hiring an extra employee helping you save money.

Their and many good options to keep your bookkeeping under control you can have a to it yourself system by software system, hiring an employee or getting outsource whichever option you decided to get the best advice is to not neglect your bookkeeping to have a system in place before starting your business or getting help if you have an established business. If you need assistance with your bookkeeping, you can reach our friends at bookkeeping they are the leading bookkeeper’s service in the country.