Dear family and friends,

You may (or may not) have noticed that I barely spend any time on Facebook these days. Today is the first time I’ve logged in for quite a while, and although I have definitely missed hearing what some of you have been up to and keeping up with your goings-on, I have to say I have really not missed “the Facebook experience”.

I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Facebook… I know there can be some great stuff happening there, but I was increasingly finding Facebook as a huge time suck that was stealing more and more hours of my life for very little real return. I, probably like you, have spent far too much of my life liking and commenting on other people’s posts, watching inane videos, or observing some of humanity’s ugliest sides in many of the discussion threads.

I was becoming more and more disenchanted with the whole Facebook experience, so I just decided to stop using it. If you’ve read my blog you will know that I’ve got to this point in the past, where I’ve ranted about it, even deleted my account, etc, but I now realise it was far more about how I used Facebook than Facebook itself. (Although I still have many concerns about the way Facebook does things and the many unethical ways it deals with user data).

I do find Facebook useful as a single sign-on tool for other web services, and that is one reasons I have kept my account active. The other main reason is you… I am connected to many people here on Facebook, and I consider most of you friends. However, I’ve seen less of most of you over the last few years than ever before, and if that’s what it means to have friends these days, then it’s not enough for me. I’ve fallen into the trap of having friends in online spaces like Facebook at the expense of having friends in actual meetspace.

I have to say that since I have deliberately been avoiding Facebook, I’ve been happier, fitter, healthier, and have spent more time doing more things that I like doing. I’ve read more, exercised more, travelled more, and used some of that time to learn a new language. (In fact, the loading page in Duolingo actually says “15 minutes a day can help you learn a new language, what does 15 minutes on social media give you?”) It turns out that I was spending WAY more than 15 minutes a day on social media, and the truth is I was getting very little back from it.

I know some of you love Facebook and get great value from it, so good luck to you. Facebook is not all bad and for many of you it helps you remain connected with people you care about. I’m glad it works for you.

For me, it became a case of the more connected I became, the more disconnected I felt. I decided that there is a whole real world out there that is far more interesting and more deserving of my time than Facebook. I’m glad we are friends, and I’m glad that I can stay connected to you in some way, but it will be far less on Facebook. If you want to know what’s going on in my life, I’d much rather you call, or have lunch, or meet for a drink, or go for a walk together, or something…

I still like social media, I just don’t want it to be a permanent proxy for my real life.

Crossposted to Facebook

Can The Network Deliver?

Ok, here’s a little test of network theory.

Some background. On February 14 this year, I asked my beautiful partner Linda to marry me. She said yes. Yay! So we are planning a wedding. In fact we are planning two weddings, one in Canada and one in Australia. As you can imagine, there’s a fair bit of expense involved in doing that.

Then a couple of weeks ago, Linda spotted a contest on Facebook where you submit a photo or short video, and get people to vote for you. As most of you know, I haven’t always been very complimentary about my Facebook experiences, but just to support Linda I reactivated my dead account so I could cast a few votes.

Long story short, we’ve ended up doing ok in this contest, in fact for much of the last few weeks we were leading. Unfortunately, right now we are not leading, and have dropped back into third place. The people in number two spot will, I assume, get disqualified since they have submitted copyrighted material, so I’m not too worried about them. But the people in first place are on a real burn and are adding votes VERY quickly…

Normally, I’d just shrug it off and say it’s all just a bit of fun. No reason to take it too seriously. But the first prize is $10,000. Yes $10,000! I probably don’t need to tell you just how helpful that would be for making wedding plans!

So here’s what I’m asking – partly because I’d obviously really like us to win, and partly because I’m really curious to see just how much a network of people like you guys might respond to a request like this.

Could you vote for us. Please. I look at it this way… we are trailing by about 1100 votes. According to Feedburner, this blog has about 1100 subscribers. If each of you voted just once we would be back in the race. If each of you voted twice, we would be hard to beat. If each of you voted just three times, we would be planning the wedding(s) that Linda deserves.

So what do you say? Would you vote for us? Please?

Here’s the link… http://goo.gl/QRN3u

Yes, you need to be a Facebook user, and yes you need to Like the page temporarily to cast a vote. But it’s easy and quick. And you can vote once each hour, as many times as you like. Just 2 or 3 votes from each of you would make a huge difference.

I’d REALLY be grateful. And I’d love to be able to tell this story about how, when I needed it, the network really delivered.

Thanks!

PS. I should mention the contest closes at midnight on Saturday March 31 (Sydney time). So if you want to help us out, just be aware that you’ve only got a short window of time to do it.

Enough is Enough

I just posted my final status update on Facebook…

Dear Friends,

As some of you know, I have been wary about the direction Facebook has been taking for quite a while. Their everchanging and confusing privacy settings, the dubious way they treat your personal information, the sneaky way they phrase things in their terms of service… the list goes on… in short, I have gotten to the point where I simply no longer trust Facebook with my information.  The recent (and soon to be released) changes like the Timeline View and the “frictionless sharing” that Zuckerberg talked about at the recent f8 conference have started to change Facebook into a service that I’m no longer willing to use.  Articles like this one (http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2114059/Your-Facebook-Data-File-Everything-You-Never-Wanted-Anyone-to-Know) make me feel entirely distrustful of the whole thing.

Despite reservations I’ve had about it, I’ve really tried to like Facebook. I’ve enjoyed making and maintaining connections with people here, but Facebook’s cavalier attitude to my personal information makes it impossible for me to continue being a user of the service. While I certainly have nothing to hide, in principle I simply no longer wish to support Facebook and its services.

I have disabled my account over the last few days and have realised that I really don’t need Facebook. Soon after I post this message I will be deleting my account completely. Unfortunately, I realise that even after I delete my account, I still have no real idea about how much of my information Facebook will continue to retain and use. That’s pretty appalling don’t you think?

I still think the basic ideas of social networking online are wonderful, and I’ve been really enjoying what’s going on over at Google+. To me, Google+ feels like a  far more vibrant, interesting (and trustworthy!) place than Facebook. I like the way Google have been upfront and open about what they do with my information. To be clear, it’s not the giving of the information that concerns me at Facebook, it’s the sneaky, convoluted ways that they miscommunicate their intentions about it. I feel like Facebook have crossed the line with my trust.

There are lots of people I’m going to miss being in contact with here on Facebook. But I hope you understand that I just can’t continue to support a service that acts so sneakily, so unethically, and treats me and my information with so little respect.

Chris

It’s a bit of a shame really, as I have a lot of friends on Facebook, but I just can’t do it any more. At the heart of it, I think Facebook is ultimately bad for the future of the open Internet.  It gives the impression of being all warm and fuzzy and connecting you with your friends and family, but the motives of the company are entirely Facebook-centric. Facebook cares only about Facebook.  As I watch it grow bigger and stronger it feels to me like what Germany must have felt like in the mid 1930s.  There was a time when people were great supporters of Adolf Hitler too. We all know how that turned out.

Oh, and take a moment to read that article linked above. Scary!  Seig Heil indeed.

Image: ‘DSC_0076.JPG‘ 
http://www.flickr.com/photos/24095119@N06/2324843973

Bye Bye Facebook

As you may have noticed, Facebook has been copping a great deal of flak in the media lately for recent changes to its privacy policy.  There is growing evidence that Facebook as a company has few scruples or ethics when it comes to the way they view and use your personal data.  The company has continually “baited and switched” the privacy settings in Facebook to the point where they have become so confusing and complex that few people truly understand them.  There are something like 50 choices leading to about 170 different privacy variations possible, all needing to made in multiple locations in Facebook, with very little consistency or “expected behaviour” between them…  consequently, there could be significant parts of your personal data that is being made public without you realising. Facebook seems to be working on the principle that most users never look at the default settings or take the time to think through their options.  The most recent changes made to their privacy policy have made the sharing of your personal information “opt-out”, rather than the previous method of “opt-in”.  This means that, unless you wade through the many privacy settings to turn them off, you are probably sharing far more than you realise. Added to this is the recent change to the Facebook Privacy Policy that essentially grants Facebook the rights to give your data to third parties and advertisers in order to target marketing to you.  The infographic to the right was created by Matt McKeon, and links to his page where you can explore an interactive version which shows how the default sharing policy on Facebook has changed over time.  It’s a bit scary!

Interestingly, the Facebook Privacy Policy –which all Facebook users must agree to in order to use the service – has grown to become almost 6000 words long.  Do you know what it says?

Personally, I find this unethical behaviour completely unacceptable and, along with many others across the web, have decided to close my Facebook account.  Like many Facebook users, there have been times when I’ve found the service useful in helping me connect to friend and family, but their recent display of unethical, almost fascist, behaviour has left me with little choice but to cancel the service.  Although I had taken the time in the past to secure my Facebook account (and I was savvy enough to do so) I cannot, in principle, support a company that shows such a cavalier attitude to the privacy of their user base.

If you are a Facebook user, I would strongly encourage you to check the settings in your account to make sure they are doing what you expect.  There is a useful tool at http://www.reclaimprivacy.org/
that will actually probe your Facebook account to show you how it looks to the outside world.  I would strongly encourage you to take the time to check yours.

There is also much bigger issues about Facebook. Its disregard for open standards, its walled garden approach that continually borrows steals ideas from all over the web, its willingness to do whatever it takes to keep users within the Facebook environment… I believe in the longer term will be bad for the Internet in general. That’s a much bigger issue and beyond the scope of this particular post, but when you add it all up, I can’t in all good faith continue to support a company that continually exhibits evil motives.  Facebook might be a useful service for many, and it might offer a certain convenience factor by bringing things into one place, but there is no doubt in my mind that Facebook will bad for the open web in the longer term.

Many people in the Internet community are so outraged by the continual display of unethical behaviour of Facebook and their CEO Mark Zuckerberg that here is an official “Quit Facebook Day” organised for May 31.

If you feel strongly enough about the approach that Facebook is taking, you may also decide to close your account to send a message to the company that you are not willing to use a service that shows such scant concern for their users privacy.

Here are just a few articles (of many!) about the recent changes that you may want to read if you need more information.  It’s worth getting the full story.

I realise that many people find Facebook very useful, and many will not want to take the extreme step of deleting their account, but I do hope you take the time to make sure your account is sharing what you think it is, and to even perhaps share some of this conversation with your students.