Tag Archives: Facebook

“On this day”….

…I pruned my Facebook postings.

One of the things I do each day is I take a moment and pop over to the “On this day” page on Facebook.

I do it for a couple of reasons.

First of all, it is kind of fun to see what was going on in the past. So I take a look over it to see what’s there.

Second, after I look it over, I go through and delete nearly every posting I’ve made there. I delete nearly every posting someone has put on my timeline. And I remove nearly every tag that someone has made of me. I only keep a very, very few postings that are really fun or somehow meaningful to me.

I do this as an exercise in data retention hygiene. There no need to keep all old postings, so I delete them.

Yes, if Facebook or someone wanted to, they could go to backups/archives and restore the posts. But I don’t need to make getting to old posts any easier than it needs to be. If someone really wants to know that I said I was eating a cheese sandwich at 10 AM PDT on Friday September 7, 2007, I’m going to make them work for it.

This points to a best practice we all need to follow in the era of seemingly “always there social media”: pruning. It’s a form of social media decluttering. But it’s also our personal version of the best practice of only keeping essential data for as long as we need to.

It can be hard to do this with social media. In some ways, social media is more like a photo album. But the best photo albums keep the best, most meaningful pictures.

There’s a philosophical piece here too. It’s a daily exercise in not just remembering the past, but remembering to let go of it. It reminds me that everything is transitory. We don’t have forever: it’s important to remember that too.


How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life.

This is a much more personal post than most. But ultimately it relates to social media in a way that I think is appropriate for my work blog.

In the past ten months, I have learned about the deaths of three people that I know through Facebook. Two of them were “friends”, one was a “friend of a friend”, actually of several friends. One of them, a former co-worker, died after a bout with cancer. The other two were former high school classmates, both of whom died of suicide.

In all three cases, I learned about this through Facebook wall postings. Over time, the walls became a place where people exchanged information, memories, paid respects, expressed grief and loss, and in some cases supported one another.

Today, just now, I was on Facebook and the one person I wasn’t friends with was just presented to me as “Someone you may know”.

I’ve said that “social networking is truly social” meaning that it is a true extension of ourselves as social creatures: we have embraced it and extended our social behaviors, both good and bad, to that medium. And nothing drives home that point more than death on Facebook.

The suggestion that I “friend” someone who is now dead, and my other recent experiences around the deaths of people on Facebook led me today to realize that Facebook’s use and importance as part of our social interactions has outstripped some of its capabilities. Put simply, Facebook (or any other social networking site) lacks mechanisms to deal gracefully and thoughtfully with death. From the question of “how do you take control of the Facebook account of a loved one who has died” to keeping the profile alive (pun somewhat intended) but reflecting the fact that the person is deceased, there’s no graceful, easy way to deal with death on Facebook.

It’s not just a technology problem: there are questions around etiquette and customs as well that we as a society have to work out.

But at this point, it’s certainly clear to me that as social networking becomes ever more truly social, it needs to be able to handle not just the good of our social lives, but also the hard things.

Kirk asked in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: “[H]ow we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life, wouldn’t you say?”

As regards social networking, I believe the answer is an unequivocal “Yes”.

This just in: Facebook isn’t new and shiny any more…

…and in other news, people get bored eventually.

Last week the blog Inside Facebook reported that Facebook had lost in the neighborhood of 8 million users from the United States, Canada, and other industrialized countries.

Since there, there’s understandably been discussion and analysis about what that means. Blake Snow posted some analysis of this over at CNN talking about some of the reasons why people are dropping Facebook.

It’s an interesting read, and to his credit, Snow isn’t predicting the coming demise of Facebook.

While some might take the declining numbers and anecdotal evidence of people deleting their accounts as the first sign that Facebook has peaked and is starting its decline, I think that evidence tells a different story. I think that evidence tells us that Facebook is becoming better understood, more mature, and more integrated into our lives.

Let me give a personal example (and show I’m old too). When I was six or so in the mid 1970’s, my mother brought home from work an amazing new thing called a “calculator“. I was amazed and played with it for hours, most of the day in fact. But over time, they became more common and more broadly used. And so over time, they became better understood and more integrated into my life. I don’t spend hours playing with calculators like I did that day, but I can’t live without them. Some people though, don’t need them. But I’ll bet they’ve used them at some point in their life because they’re so integrated.

I think the same applies to Facebook (and other social media). We’ve all had time to start figuring out what’s its good for, what it’s not good for, what we like about it, and what we don’t like about it. I may not use it as much as I did before, but where I do use it, I use it more intelligently and meaningfully. It’s more integrated into my life than it was in the early days.

My take on this (and there’s some hints of this in Snow’s article at the end) is that social media has shown its a permanent new addition to our world of communications, just like when the telephone became widely used in the mid-Twentieth century. The demise of Facebook won’t come about because people don’t see a need for it in their lives. The demise of Facebook will come about much like the demise of the old Trimline telephone I used that same day my mother brought me the calculator: because something will better fill its space in our lives, giving us even more capabilities and options.

Using Facebook to Help After a Disaster

A short post today to highlight an ingenious and fascinating new application of Facebook.

In the wake of the terrible string of tornadoes across the southern United States this week, some people have stood up a Facebook page to enable people who find lost photos and documents to post scanned images of them in the hopes that their rightful owners will find them and claim them.

Granted, this is a new thing and it may not work as expected. One person has posted on the wall a reminder/caution to obscure personally identifiable data, saying the last thing a tornado victim needs is to be a subsequent victim of identity theft. And there may be risks around theft or unverified claims.

But the fact is that people are trying to use new tool to solve a very human problem. And that deserves note and watching.

It also marks another way in which social networking is becoming truly “social”: a part of our true social interactions as people.


After a bit of a sabbatical and vacation I’m starting to get back into my work.

I may write about what it’s like to leave Microsoft after nearly eleven years to strike off and do my own thing, but that’s for later.

Today as I’m getting back into work, I’ve got people losing their jobs on my mind. Specifically, how in the world of the Twittersphere, you can find yourself out of a job after a mere 140 characters (or at least by shooting off your mouth in 140 character blocks).

In the past two weeks there have been two examples of people spectacularly flaming out on Twitter. First, last week there was Nir Rosen’s amazingly insensitive comments about the Lara Logan situation that led to his immediate resignation from NYU . Then this week Indiana deputy attorney general Jeff Cox was fired after tweeting that police should use live ammunition on pro-union protesters in Wisconsin.

There’s a good write-up on the Rosen situation and how NYU handled it (or didn’t) over at The Answer Sheet. And a quick rundown of Jeff Cox’s professional death-by-Twitter over at USA Today.

While the world is rightly marveling at how Twitter and Facebook have played major roles in enabling the uprisings in the Middle East, it’s good to remember that social media is really a force of nature. It can be a force for good or bad, depending on how one uses it. And in understanding how it can be a force for bad, it’s important to remember those wise words of H. R. Haldeman from Watergate days: You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.

So, think before you hit “Tweet”.

Don’t worry, the Internet is on it

If you follow social media trends, the odds are that you now have heard of Cooks Source Magazine, a formerly not-very-well known local cooking magazine based in New England. If you haven’t been following this there’s plenty of virtual ink spilled on the matter but the Economist, as always, has a great summary of the story. The short version is that Cooks Source allegedly used a writer’s article without permission, the writer blogged about it, the story went viral, and within twenty-four hours Cooks Source was on the receiving end of swift Internet justice, eventually earning their own Downfall video parody.

On the face of it, it would look like another case of understandable Internet mob justice motiviated by righteous indignation, similar to the tidal wave that came down three years ago on Lori Drew, the mother whose alleged harrasment of Megan Meier on MySpace led to her suicide.

There is one thing that’s very different and important to understand about the Cooks Source situation. Cooks Source will likely go out of business. But that outcome seems to have less to do with the white hot outrage that can fade quickly, and more to do with how angry people used Cooks Source’s own Facebook page to coordinate actions effectively targeting Cooks Source on a business level. Users quickly began to use the Cooks Source Facebook page to coordinate actions, contacting advertisers to urge them to pull support from the magazine, and finding numerous other instances of articles taken without proper permission and/or attribution that could potentially be used by the harmed parties to file lawsuits.

Less than twenty-four hours after the issue broke, the List of Cooks Source Advertisers discussion group appeared on the Cooks Source Facebook page. People with copies of the print magazine systematically combed through through the current issue and posted names of advertisers to the group, in part because Cooks Source isn’t available online. With that information posted in a collaborative forum, people began working together to obtain information on Cooks Source advertisers and contact them to urge them to pull their advertising from the magazine. Some people even used the discussion group to remind those contacting advertisers to temper their tone and be polite. Those who had contacted advertisers and gotten agreement to pull their advertising reported back to the group, urging others to no longer contact those advertisers. Later, the Reward those who do right: Buy something from Cooks Source ex-advertisers group sprang up to actively encourage people to support those advertisers who pulled their support for Cooks Source.

Meanwhile, the List of Cooks Source article sources. Please add more group also sprang up. While some people were busy targeting advertisers in a coordinated way, people here were systematically looking at (and in some cases posting scanned copies) of articles and then trying to find instances where the text and/or images of the articles appeared to possibly be taken from other sources and providing links to both for comparison. In what is potentially an even more serious attack on Cooks Source as a business, people found, at last count, nearly 160 articles and images that they believe could have issues around permission and attribution. As a precautionary measure, the work was moved off of the Cooks Source facebook page into a Google doc, where people continue to collaborate. As major corporations such as Disney, Food Network and NPR are potentially included in this list, the risks to Cooks Source as a business in terms of possible lawsuits now is quite serious.

Unlike other instances of Internet justice, in this case, the mob got smart. Rather than simply bluster, they started taking real steps that could hurt Cooks Source as a business. The fact that these actions were enabled by Cooks Source’s own Facebook page is ironic but also points to a real risk that any organization with a clear, central online social media presence faces: that the social media capabilities that help your organization can be turned against you quickly. Regardless of one’s stance on the merits of the case, from a social media issues management point of view, the single greatest mistake Cooks Source made was failing to immediately lock down the collaborative features on their Facebook page (i.e. their Wall and Discussions).

At one point, a user posted a question in the Discussions, asking if advertisers were being contacted. Another person immediately replied “Don’t worry, the Internet is on it”. The questioner then replied “I ❤ [love] the Internet”. The Cooks Source episode shows that “the Internet” is indeed on it, and it’s learning how to be smarter in bringing its huge, collaborative power to do more than simply rant. Cooks Source is an important episode for everyone who handles social media outlets to understand, particularly from the standpoint of issues management. Your sites can and will be used against you in times of crisis: make sure you plan for that.