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Facebook minus, Google Plus

The social media space is all abuzz about Google+ and I’ve been lucky enough to have had a chance to play with it for the last week or so.

It’s good. It’s not perfect but for the type of space it’s playing in, it’s really really good. I can easily see people leaving facebook for plus…

Actually, I’m one of those people but not because I believe Plus is better than Facebook for social networking (both have some fundamental problems which I’ll discuss in a post I’ve been stewing for some time which I’ll be posting at some stage) but because Google+ gives me control of my social graph and what I do with it in a way that Facebook actively acts to prevent me doing (which is deplorable… It’s my information, not theirs.)

As an example of what I’m talking about I’ve just carried out a “Facebook export” on my FB account.

Frankly, it’s a bit of a disgrace.

First off there’s the fact that it’s a “request” which is met at a later stage after some sort of intermediate processing (or manual checking?) which makes one feel distinctly like you’ve had to ask for some form of special dispensation. I’m sure the argument will be that they need to do this as an asynchronous process for performance reasons but my counter to that would be to wonder why this would be a particularly large performance hit… just how many people are doing this on a regular basis?

The second and more important point about it is that the export is basically meaningless because it removes almost all of the semantics from the content which are what give it it’s real value.

For example: Your friends list is literally just a list of names… no email addresses, no contact information of any sort, not even, counter-intuitively,  links to their facebook profile pages, nothing just a list of names.

The same is true for almost all of the other information in your “Export”.

Couple that with the fact that the exported files are laid out and marked up in a way which make it very difficult to parse easily (into anything meaningful) and it’s blatantly obvious that this is nothing more than a sham capability put in place to gloss over the concerns of privacy advocates and organisations.

Much of the focus on the privacy issues with Facebook have been around who access your information and how. Little focus it seems has been put on the more important issue (to my mind) of how Facebook control and actively work to limit your access to your own information for your own legitimate uses. Now that, I think, would be worthy of some study.

Meanwhile, I’m moving most of my socialising to Plus… Google, while distinctly evil in many ways, at least give me tools to move my information around (and away from them) however and whenever I want. That places me in a unique situation in the social networking world: In control of my information.

Catch me on Plus at: http://gplus.to/joevaughan

(P.S. If you want an invite, ping me a message with your email address)

Facebook Panic Button. Another excuse to not parent?

I’m thoroughly unconvinced by the Facebook/CEOPS “Panic button”. It seems to me once again like a technological solution to a management problem.

The flawed logic being applied is that a child is cognizant enough of their risks online to (a) install the app – no mean feat in and of itself and (b) recognise when they’re at risk.

Show me a teenager who fundamentally understands these risks and I’ll eat my hat.

The key to minimising our children’s risks online is not daft barely thought through technological solutions but education. It’s up to parents to educate themselves and to educate and monitor their children’s activity (i.e. manage) particularly on social network sites.

The solution as stands is, frankly, more dangerous than no solution as it once again bestows the illusion of safety ultimately all but guaranteeing that some parents come to believe that the problem has been dealt with and they can take a step back from managing their children’s online interactions.

As a parent I feel that a much more appropriate solution would have been to give me, the parent, vetting privileges over my child’s (who’s only 2 so not yet using facebook ;>)  friends and the ability to monitor their communications if I become concerned (or even possibly to put some smarts into the communications system to be able to alert me to something potentially dangerous going on).

Given that this is not what’s been provided, if it were me (thankfully I’m not in such a position for some years yet) I wouldn’t touch ClickCEOP with a bargepole.

I prefer to parent my child  – I’m never going to trust technology (and/or my child) to do it for me.