Got Social?

Naughty kids on Facebook

Last night, on Twitter, Amy Bruckman posted the following

asbruckman: Middle schoolers forced to show principal facebook accounts, then threatened with expulsion for calling teacher names:

The story is about a principal at a school where kids are, what, 11, 12, 13 years old, forced – FORCED a student to show her their Facebook page.  There were some awful things posted about a teacher, with words like pedophile and rapist.  I’m not defending what the kids said or wrote.  This is a parent issues.  These kids are young and their parents should be monitoring what they do on Facebook.

What this principal did was wrong, and I’m not a lawyer but I’d guess it violated the rights of these children.  I know that it was in a public domain, and if that’s the case, and the principal found the comments in a public way, then it is well within her right to take action.  She has no right to FORCE (their words, not mine) this student to show her the Facebook page.

I responded to Amy on Twitter

sorry_afk@asbruckman def. Violation of childs priv. Either facebook is/is not a school thing. Can’t have it both ways. I hope they sue the principal

and someone name Erica Glaser wrote back

EricaGlasier@sorry_afk@asbruckman @ToughLoveforX WDYT of the particular names the students called the teacher? WWYD if you were that teacher’s boss?

To which, someone named ToughLoveForX responded:

@EricaGlasier WID? It’s a eachable moment. Make it part of Public Discourse in skl. Disciplining is the ez way out. @sorry_afk @asbruckman

My response was far too much for 140 characters, so I decided to put it here.

First off, I think the principal should be disciplined.  There was no imminent threat to the school, this is not like opening a kids locker (which is school property anyway, Facebook is not), it’s a somewhat private space, one which schools like these have been arguing, ironically, that should not BE in schools.  And yet…

If I were the parents of these kids, I would file a law suit.  There are checks and balances for authority.

If I were the school system, I would do a community program on the positive AND negative things about social networks – and NOT bring up these kids directly.  Everyone will know, from the press, what the genesis of this is – no need to give these kids more attention than they have already had.

I would also bring the kids AND THEIR PARENTS into school for a conference, and talk about why this happened and how.

I don’t know this teacher in question, but I might want to find out what prompted these comments.  It could very well be a few kids acting out for no reason, and it very likely is the case, but I wouldn’t let this go unquestioned.

So, that is what I would do – right or wrong, and I’m not involved in K-12, I don’t have kids, its easy for me to sit here in my office and write this.  But these things seem logical to me.  The most important thing is, this principal was wrong, with a capital W.

Word Lens

In the last 24 hours I’ve seen the new iPhone app Word Lens come across my radar twice.  Once in a mention from a friend on Twitter and the second time on the blog that the chair of our Sociology department puts together. BTW, I read Jay’s postings with regularity and enjoy them, he does a great job.

Anyway, back to Word Lens, which is produced by a company called Quest Visual.  I was very interested in this.  As many of you know I interact in the Brasilian community a great deal, with ties in Brasil both personal and professional.  My Portuguese is okay, but it would be great to have some help sometimes – especially in stores or reading the paper.  So I decided to check this out.  The only language they have right now is Spanish, but I’m sure they will be adding more eventually (although my guess is that Portuguese would not be next on the list).

I started reading through the reviews and ran across a post from someone who was complaining on the bait-and-switch introductory price.  I always take at face value what I read in these comments, so I decided to pursue it myself.

Let me first say that the video they’ve produced for this product is quite impressive.  If this product performs as well as it says, it’s going to make a big difference for folks who live or visit multi-lingual communities (namely, Spanish-speaking at this point).  My concern was not the product so much as a business practice.

I visited the web site and sent my question to the email address listed.

Hello, and congrats on the recent publicity for the product.

Although Spanish/English is a great start, clearly you’ll be adding languages.  When the time comes to do that, will there be a charge for those who have already paid for the app (albeit the “intro” price)?  Also, aside from the sign up cost (the $5 currently), should I expect any other costs moving forward.  This was mentioned in at least one review I read, although I wasn’t really clear what the reviewer was talking about.

Thanks for your work and for your response.

Within (a very impressive) three minutes I received a response.

There is no charge for the app itself — you can pick and choose which languages you want.  Dictionaries you buy will be updated for free.

— john deweese, quest visual

Ok, so, this really didn’t answer my question, not directly.  And the more I looked at it, the more I thought the answer was a bit dodgy.  So I decided to write back to get some clarification.  What I wanted to know was, will new dictionaries cost money to update (which I think he is saying yes to above) and would there be any other expected expenses once I buy in initially.  Of the apps I have that I’ve paid for, I’ve never been asked to pay more money later on for added functionality.  Granted, I don’t own a ton of apps, and none that do what this app does, but I do own other translator apps and none of those, or any other apps for that matter, have ever come back and asked me for more money when they add functionality.  I have apps for both my iPhone and iPad, both of which are my main interaction devices, so this was something I thought was significant, especially in my own consideration for purchase.  So, I wrote

Thanks for the quick response.

My understanding is that the only dictionary available at this time is Spanish/English.  So, when Portuguese/English comes out, will I have to “buy” that dictionary (as you say below) and then updating the app with the dictionary I bought will be free?

My bottom line question is, once I buy the app, should I expect any other costs as you add functionality (including dictionaries).

thanks again,


This time the response took over 21 hours.  Now, don’t get me wrong, a response from a company within 24 hours may seem pretty good (although it should not – we should expect responses from online, technology driven companies fairly quickly), but these guys set the bar high by responding in three minutes.  Time zones often restrict response time, so I didn’t expect three minutes again, but the much longer time this time let me know that he was most likely checking his response language.  My guess would be that they don’t want people to know that there will be more charges down the road, since that might stop people from trying it now.  Just a guess, that is, until I got the response.

That’s correct, individual language packs will be offered separately for purchase, and once you buy them, you can update those for free.  The only additional charges we will ask for is for fundamentally new features, and additional individual language packs.


John DeWeese

Ok, clear as day.  So, added languages are not considered a “functionality” but  a “pack” that will get added later.  This makes a bit more sense, and I’m not placing judgement on this practice (although I’d prefer to not see it roll that way), but they should make this clear someplace so people know.  I’m not saying it needs to be in the app store, but it should be on their website.  If someone clicks BUY in the app store without checking things out, they get what they get.  I don’t always check the developer’s web site, but that is a decision I make at the time of purchase, as I did this time.

I must commend John for writing me back so quickly and then writing me back again, providing information I’d guess he’d rather have not been providing.  Kudos on that front, now if only they’d take that honesty to their site (and if they did, I apologize for missing it, but I did look).

I think they have an awesome product.  I think it’s a better business model to sell higher and not nickel/dime your customers later on.  I may even end up buying this app, just to check it out to see how it works – especially since its only $5 right now.  I just wanted to put out my experience so others can learn from it and make their own decisions.

Internet “Kill” switch

** Warning – this is a long post, but well worth the read **

The following exchange took place on a listserve I follow that is made up primarily of high level IT/Administrative folks at institutions around the world (but mostly in the US).  I have scrubed any personal information.

I’m very interested in your thoughts on this.  Is it right for faculty to expect an technology answer for an “internet” free zone in their classroom or is it the instructors responsibility to manage that as part of regular classroom management?



I have been asked by some faculty to look into internet “kill switches” that would disable wireless internet access on personal laptops used during classroom instruction.  Here is a snippet of the original conversation.

Since we’ve been wrestling with the advent of personal computers being brought into our classes, and the plight of having to police students who are using their laptops for non-course-related activities during class sessions (playing games, surfing the web, checking Facebook, and the like), I’m wondering if we should check with the folks in IT and look into having our classrooms equipped with internet “kill switches”.  Many other colleges and universities have such devices, giving faculty the ability to control internet usage.  We have a similar control already available in the [snip] labs, but I’m curious if such an option might also be added to our classrooms?  This is just a thought that might benefit from discussion and consideration.  Problems surrounding personal computer use in our classes will only continue to be an issue; perhaps we should look into such an option more seriously?

The control to disable internet access in the [snip] labs that was referenced is using a product called LanSchool.  We install this in all our wired computer labs.  One of the features is that the instructor can disable access to the internet, but students can still use the rest of the features of the computer.

What are other institutions doing about this situation?  Is it even legal to block or kill wireless access?  I know that one approach is to put it back on the instructor to dictate behavior in the classroom.


I find it hard to believe the [snip] would allow us to kill cellular service, and even if we could, I shudder to think what the liability would be if we had disabled students’ cellular service and there was an emergency or other crisis. (How many schools use SMS for emergency communication services? We do.)  With 3G services now built into media consumption devices like iPads, I don’t think this is a battle IT should join. The faculty are going to have to control their own classrooms.


I should think that, since it is the University’s network, they may deploy it in whatever fashion they deem appropriate.

Several studies have been published recently indicating that students who have access to the Internet during class time tend to perform somewhat worse than those who do not, EVEN IF the access is used to augment the lecture material. Human beings are not well adapted to an interrupt-driven way of thinking, and having the laptops in the classroom tends to cause more interruptions in student thought processes than may normally occur when they are not used.

Just my two sous’ worth…


Wow.  Do the same profs who want the network disabled during class also take up cell phones (texting), pencils/pens (so students don’t doodle), and attempt to close the minds of the students so they don’t wander somewhere “unapproved”?

As an IT professional, MBA student, and father of college students I find this mindset repulsive.  I have found that most faculty of this mindset are more concerned with the sharpshooting that comes from those of us who don’t think that what we were just told is “the absolute truth” – or on some occasions, even remotely accurate.  I think that instead of concerning themselves with how to STOP the use of technology, they should spend more time on including it.  Additionally, they may need to work on their presentation skills.  I find that in those classes where the prof is boring, I surf.  If they are intellectually stimulating or able to present material in a captivating way, I don’t even start up my laptop.  If we ever implemented such a blocking technology on our campus, I would no longer attend class myself, move my kids who are attending to a more progressive school, and update my resume so that I could work for an institution that embraces the future as opposed to one trying to force us into the past.


I realize this comment is not going to be particularly helpful nor answer your specific question, but I can’t resist suggesting that we (because I know this question comes up on many of our campuses) should be asking ourselves two relevant questions here:

(1) Why are we investing significant resources in Internet and wireless access in general if faculty simply want to turn it off?

(2) Why are our students more interested in engaging with “playing games, surfing the web, and using Facebook” (all of which I would argue lead to significant learning) then the classes they are paying large sums of money to attend?

I’m obviously being a bit playful here in my questions as I know there are more to these issues but I do believe that they point to more serious questions about the degree to which we in higher education are engaging today’s students in meaningful learning experiences.  Maybe we should be turning this question around on faculty and asking them why they are not using games, the web and social networking more in their classroom instruction ;-) .

p.s. On a more practical note, I’d suggest finding more policy-based solutions to this issue…if students were bringing magazines to class and reading them while the lecture was going on I don’t think we would be talking about ways to shut off the lights so that they couldn’t read any more…we’d simply tell them not to do it and set up some consequences if they did.


I have taken the position that it is impossible to do this effectively without putting the classroom inside a Faraday cage.  With all of the mobile devices that students are carrying, just disabling the wireless and/or the wired connection in the classroom will not be effective as long as some students have a mobile device that can get cell coverage.

As I read your question more carefully, it is really two questions – can we block the Internet and can we block wireless.  The answer to the first is above.  The answer to the second is probably with appropriate technology.

To me, the bigger question is should we do this?  This is similar to the questions about blocking certain web sites to solve personnel issues.  I remember, long before the days of the Internet, that if we did not want to pay attention in class we could always find a way to do that and the instructors fought an ongoing battle to keep our attention.  Technology has just made this so much easier.  As long as the students who are not pay attention are not having an impact on others in the class, they are only hurting themselves.


A valid point on the 3G/4G network information; very difficult to stop that. School wireless could be shut down, but you really cannot stop the public carriers’ signals without effectively disrupting your emergency communications process (assuming you use cell phone service for that – who doesn’t?).

The bottom line, as he said, lies with the professor. My wife never let students use laptops or other devices in her classroom. Her philosophy is “You paid money to hear me, so I am going to make certain you do so.”


Just to pose a counter suggestion here…

If the goal is to sit in a class and absorb information being broadcast out from a lecturer, then I would agree that accessing the Internet while that was going on could be distraction and students might not do as well spitting back answers on a test based on that lecture.  This said, I’d theorize that if the Internet access in these classrooms was used to engage students in a real world simulation or problem solving project in which they were applying information to address real world challenges that they would outperform those sitting in the lecture (with or without laptops).

My point here is that anything can be a barrier to the learning process, it depends on how it is used.  If I flickered the lights off and on during a lecture it too would probably distract folks, but we don’t talk about removing lights from classrooms just because someone might use them in ways that distract from learning.


At the risk of sounding like a dinosaur, in MY day I could easily have napped in certain lectures as some of the other students chose to do.  If I didn’t it was because I was interested in the topic and recognized my need to listen and/or interact with the faculty member.  if students choose not to do so, it is not the job of IT Services nor, I would suggest, the administration to enforce a longer attention span on its students.  *shaking my fist and yelling ‘Hey you kids get offa the lawn!” *


The recently published Shakespeare’s Blackberry has an interesting take on this issue which could inform decision-making on this subject. (cf. ).  The university has a long architectural tradition of building alcoves, cloisters and carrels to enable students to disconnect from the world and engage in focused thinking.  In so far as we still value these traditions we should be working to build the same sort of options into our information technologies as well.


Oops…my apologies to Powers; the book is Hamlet’s Blackberry


Internet-connected devices are trending toward operating on either WiFi or cellular networks.  Wired network ports in classrooms are mostly a thing of the past, except for the instructor’s use.  Aside from the liability issue Rick mentions of actively preventing people from calling for help in an emergency, the FCC has the following to say, which generally ends the conversation quickly:

From :

The operation of transmitters designed to jam or block wireless communications is a violation of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended (“Act”). See 47 U.S.C. Sections 301, 302a, 333. The Act prohibits any person from willfully or maliciously interfering with the radio communications of any station licensed or authorized under the Act or operated by the U.S. government. 47 U.S.C. Section 333. The manufacture, importation, sale or offer for sale, including advertising, of devices designed to block or jam wireless transmissions is prohibited. 47 U.S.C. Section 302a(b). Parties in violation of these provisions may be subject to the penalties set out in 47 U.S.C. Sections 501-510. Fines for a first offense can range as high as $11,000 for each violation or imprisonment for up to one year, and the device used may also be seized and forfeited to the U.S. government.


I’ll agree that students have responsibility in the learning process and if they choose to not fulfill these then it is their lose (both in knowledge and dollars).

This said, I would argue that we in education also have a responsibility to engage our students in meaningful learning experiences that will provide them with the skills they need to succeed in the world.  I think there is a lot of compelling research-based evidence that teaching models that are dominated by lectures do not lead to the learning outcomes (critical thinking, problem solving, etc.) that we know are so critical for success in today’s world.

There is a difference in my mind between students napping in classes and them engaging in things like surfing the web and interacting with people via facebook.  Napping might tell us they are partying too much or the lecture is just boring.  Exploring web content and interacting with peers would more point to students who are awake and ready to learn, but who have found that they can get more from the technology tools they have at their finger tips then listening to the lecture.

Last, I would differ with you on the role that IT or at least academic technologist should be playing in these issues.  Given our knowledge of how technology can be used to enhance learning and the lot of this knowledge among many faculty, I do see a critical leadership role for us on our campus…one where we are not just providing excellence support services (a vital role for sure) but one in which we are questioning the logic of “Internet kill switches” and pushing faculty to view these technologies as powerful new instructional tools.


If the students choose to go to the carrels to “disconnect from the world and engage in focused thinking,” why cannot theychoose to turn off the device?  We need to learn to master the device and not be a slave to it.


I wouldn’t disagree with any of your points below as appropriate assignment of responsibilities is critical for our organizations:

  1. The faculty member as a dynamic and proactive developer of their curriculum
  2. The faculty member as an expert at pedagogy.
  3. IT as the conduit or the provider of technology infrastructure
  4. Academic Technologists as the guide and perhaps therapist for curricula that may be enhanced by a facet or facets of technology
  5. The student as the other and equally critical part of the teaching and learning formula
  6. The bars for enforcing the drinking age.

But I don’t think developing a “no blackberry/iPad/laptop/new gadget to come” policy is particularly useful as more eloquently stated by other contributors to this thread already.


Hooray – finally.  Not every human problem can be solved by technology.  A professor told me once he only teaches a lesson once and if the student misses the lesson because they’re on Facebook or texting a friend too bad.  Humans need to be held accountable for their actions not technology.


There are tools (like Student Response Systems and websites like polleverywhere) that can make a lecture more engaging and require students to pay attention.  And too, there is always the option for instructors to prerecord their lectures, place them on the internet and ask students to view them before class, so they can use class time for activities.

There are many ways to solve a problem, and the solution doesn’t have to be to take the technology away–especially when the students should be treated as adults, not children.


Hello all …

We actually had this same sort of query come up during our IT Strategic Planning exercise in 2005-06, and it resulted in an action item to address the situation.  Following is the way that was handed, as provided in our update/progress report in 2009:

ACTION ITEM 7.04: Policies should be developed so that instructors may discourage inappropriate use of wireless and other information technologies within the classroom.  This action item has been completed.

It was determined by the [snip] that instructors already possessed the ability to guide the use of IT in their classroom through existing classroom management policies [snip], and that a simple inclusion of instructor expectations for technology could be incorporated into syllabi as deemed necessary by individual faculty members.

So basically, the faculty already had/have the policy to control their classroom and they can exercise that control at their discretion in a variety of ways.  In the committee that debated 7.04, we addressed many of the technological barriers to blocking (i.e., we really can’t effectively do it) as well as engaged the faculty in a healthy discussion of how teaching should evolve to take advantage of technology and students’ use of it.  The faculty also shared ways in which they “control” use — some mentioned that if you have a laptop or device, you needed to sit down front — though in the intervening years, the number of students with these devices renders even that a bit insipid — there aren’t enough front seats!

We haven’t had this arise again since that discussion in 2007.  if it does, we point them toward the FITS update and help them understand the history.


We had the same question raised when we first started deploying wireless.  I asked the faculty what they would do if the student was reading a novel and how is being on a laptop different?  They agreed that it is a classroom management issue and it has never been raised again.

I find that people (not just faculty) look to technology as an easy way out, whether or not it is appropriate.  I find it interesting that of all the posts, we are not seeing the “Many other colleges and universities” with the kill switches for wireless.


And what about the faculty who are secretly using their iPhones and Blackberries under the table during

For the record, I am not in a meeting at this time :-)

Sent from my iPhone


I couldn’t agree more with my former colleague, [snip].  [snip] also cuts to the chase and makes the point very clear : it’s not the technology that is the problem; it’s the user (student) that needs to be held accountable.

I talk with my faculty all the time about technology in the classroom.  Rather that shutting it down, figure out ways to use it.  And they all agree that it’s the responsibility of the professor to keep the student engaged; keep them interactive and interested so they aren’t chatting on-line with their Facebook friends.

While we (College of Ed) do have relatively small class sizes (20 or so), handling the classroom is a bit easier than the lecture halls filled with students (100+) – but these classes aren’t usually interactive – students sit; instructors speak.

It’s not a technology issue – it’s a management issue.


Very interesting posts.  My sister, who was visiting the last couple of days reminded me that when  we went to college in the 70′s and 80′s it was often difficult to  study on campus because of all the hi-fi units broadcasting anthem rock into the quads.  Today’s students, if not quiet, are at least quieter; we’re all still listening to music but now we do it on our ipods as often as not leaving others in peace.  All of this is to say that if some faculty are asking for internet kill switches and are worried that I.T. innovations are jeopardizing our ability to engage in focused study there are at least a few inventions in recent years that have improved things.

More largely, I think that in some ways were at the middle stages of a conversation rather than at the end of one.  And [snip] broaches an important thread of it in suggesting that when the issue of kill switches comes up it’s a good opportunity to work with instructors to examine the assumptions underlying their own pedagogy and explore whether more social-networking and use of online tools might be the answer rather than less.   It’s a worth-while conversation and faculty should feel an obligation to explain why they want less connectedness rather than more.   But the same obligation extends to us as technologists (albeit in reverse).  After all, we are the ones who are complicit in bringing the distractions of the internet into the classroom. If we want to absolve ourselves of having to provide kill switches in classrooms we better be ready to explain why our current initiatives to wire up the campus are (in spite of some instructor’s impressions) in keeping with longstanding university initiatives to find a balance between the university as a quiet remove and one that is also connected with the larger world that sustains it.  Following William Power’s we’ll be better able to cultivate the good will of our faculty if we can assure them that our policies aren’t driven simply by digital maximalism.

PS:   In our next iteration of LMSs, higher education has been spending a lot of time and energy in thinking about how to build in options that allow instructors to control the amount of permeability in their virtual classroom walls.  If we’re eager to provide these technical options in our virtual solutions perhaps we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the idea of providing these options in our brick and mortar classrooms as well.

When is a friend a friend

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how and when to allow someone into a specific network.  I know the word ‘allow’ carries some of its own baggage, but that truly is what we do – it often even says “allow” on the request.  When this whole dustup happened with Facebook, everyone was griping (including me) that the FB folks were “allowing” others to see information we did not want them to.  Technology, and specifically security, is all about “allowing” or “permissions”.  Permissions are often toggle type settings written into code and are at the very basis of everything we do.

Has this person presented the right credentials (user name and password) to authenticate to this site?  Yes – allow.  No – do not allow.

With social networking moving at the just sub-light speed it has been for the last few years, we have started to develop within us a set of “permissions” based on the networks we interact with.  Do you have the same criteria for who you follow (or block) on Twitter as you do on Facebook or Linked In?  Probably not and you probably should not because each tool serves a different purpose.

When I get a notification that someone has followed me on Twitter I look at their profile to see if there is something they are posting that I’d like to follow back.  Many times, although interesting, I have to make a choice as to who to follow back because there are just too many options and  information is wildly fluid and difficult to keep up with on Twitter.  Yes, Twitter’s lists have helped, and some 3rd party vendors help manage this.  But the amount of work to manage this needs to be proportionate with the benefit.  I’ve found Twitter to be a much better information spout than pail, and great to keep up with what is going on in real-time.  For this reason, I’m not at all picky about who follows me and open, within reason, of who I follow back.

Facebook is another story.  I must have some kind of connection with the person I friend on Facebook.  The more personal the connection the more likely I am to accept the connection request.  I’ve even gone through and unfriended some folks who I had no personal connection with – folks I’d let in when my Facebook network was smaller and FB was better about their privacy issues.  Since I know that the folks at FB have a habit of mishandling privacy issues, I keep as little private information on FB as possible, but use it as a connection tool to those I have a personal connection with.  If something else were to come along, and address my needs, I’d consider a phased switch.

LinkedIn is an even tighter network for me.  When you sign up, and in several places around the site, the folks at LI tell you how important it is when you get connected to someone.  They suggest that we should  ”Thoughtfully select those people you know and trust because these are the people you will seek advice from and request Recommendations about your/other’s quality of work. Because of this, the quality of your connections is always more important than the quantity of connections. It is important you know your connections because you may be asked to recommend one of your connections to another. If you know little about the connection you weaken the integrity of the Recommendation and your network.” (citation).  I take this advice very seriously and only allow into my  LI network those who I have some work experience with.

Any other social networks I’m a member of, I typically don’t spend my time “tending” to them.  Usually I signed up for an account as research, so when someone asks me why Facebook is better than MySpace, I can tell them (which is actually part of my job).  In order to update all of my statuses (or would that be stati), I use a service called  I simple tell Ping what networks I’m a part of – I then post to Ping and Ping goes out and updates all my networks for me.  Easy Peasy.

Ok, i didn’t just say “easy peasy” in a blog post. [blink blink] Yeah, I did.

How do you decide?  Do you even think about it? Do you have your own rules of etiquette for your interactions in various social applications? How important is it that we pay attention to this?  If we’re in education, and using technology in a classroom, are should these types of thinking be included in the learning objectives?  If we are going to require these technology, how much is it our responsibility to make sure students know how to interact with them responsibly?

Destroying our rights to our private information

In a recent Tweet  I wrote “Set up a wiki for posting information about Facebook & how they are destroying our rights to our private information.”

Marc Parry, from The Chronicle of Higher Education, responded with “marcparry @sorry_afk “Destroying our rights to our private information” Bit extreme? Nobody forces you to have a Facebook account.”

My response couldn’t be boiled down to 140 characters  :-)  or even a couple of sets of 140 characters!  LOL  So I’m responding here in my blog and will post this link to Twitter.  I encourage others to continue the conversation in the COMMENTS section.

Marc, I don’t think its extreme at all.  What I think is extreme is the management of Facebook’s cavalier attitude toward our personal data.  When I first came into Facebook I was promised a level of  expected privacy.  Slowly that has been eroded until now, I have no control over it.  And I don’t even have the option to opt out, they say they are keeping everything, AND can still publish it, after I’m gone. AND, they’ve gone out-of-the-way to make it as difficult and confusing as possible to opt out of even portions of this.

Chris Hoadley sums it up really well here:

I suggest people start paying attention to what is going on here.  If this type of privacy invasion is left to be set as a standard, big brother will all to soon REALLY be watching, as will the entire Internet.


You may already be aware of how upset I am with Facebook and the massive privacy betrayals, not just the past ones – which have been numerous, but certainly the most recent on.  I’m not going to take the time to explain all of this here, others have done a good job of it already.

Chris Hoadley is a faculty member at NYU, in the department in which I am getting my PhD.  Here is his take on what is going on: Make sure to check his blog out and follow it via RSS.  If you’re not sure what RSS is (and how it will make your digital life so much easier) – watch this:

Here is an awesome chart sequence showing how dramatically our privacy rights have changed at the hands of Facebook:

If you have other resources from the web that are talking about this, please do post them here in COMMENTS.

One of my main problems is, if I leave Facebook – and it seems almost certain that I will, where do I go?  I love what Facebook has to offer as far as connectivity and being able to stay in touch, share things – but the rulers have gotten greedy and in the process have broken several cardinal rules of social networking, not the least of which is developing trust with your clients (and we are, after all, clients in a way) by not endangering their privacy.

One of the other cardinal rules, broken more recently, is the OI/NOO – or – Opt In / Never Opt Out – meaning, if you want to introduce something, don’t force it one me and make me opt out, give me the option to opt in.  They didn’t do that this time around because they knew that nobody would opt in and how else could they have made money on this if nobody opts in.

Well, the question of where may have been answered – or at least partially.  A group of four students from New York University (my some-day-soon alma mater!) have decided to devote their summer to developing an open-source, free, privacy-driven social network to replace Facebook.

Their effort is called DIASPORA and you can find them here: Check out their video and then make sure to stick around to the very end :-)  Also, one of them, Max, goes into a very little detail about the project here:

I will be keeping a close eye on them, and the progress, and hope to have good things to report back soon.  In the meantime, what am I doing about Facebook?

Well, first, I went through and deleted all personal information about me that they would let me delete.  I also went though ALL of the privacy settings and set them to the strictest I could (or was willing to).  I also went though all the applications that I’d given access to my profile over time and cut all those connections.  I will also be pulling down any photos I don’t want up there (I’ll leave some as others may still want to have access to them) and will also likely prune down my groups.

The other thing I plan to do is to start de-friending people.  Why?  Because, in this latest breach of our trust, Facebook has made it possible not only to share our data without permission but to share our data through our friends without permission.  Details can be found at the links about.  So, if my “friends” don’t have their accounts secured properly, my information could seep out through their accounts.

I really REALLY hate doing this.  I love Facebook – I’ve really enjoyed getting into it and love being connected.  But I love my privacy more.  I really don’t have all that much to hide, but I want to be the one to control who sees what.

FourSquare – love it or hate it?

For those of you who do not know what FourSquare it, you can look here or, from their FAQ,

foursquare is a cross between a friend-finder, a social city-guide and a game that rewards you for doing interesting things.  We aim to build things to not only help you keep up with the places your friends go, but that encourage you to discover new places and challenge you to explore your neighborhood in new ways.

FourSquare is a flavor of the day when it comes to social networking.  It is geo-aware, so it lets you “check in” wherever you are.  If that place is not already in their system, you can add it.  You get points for checking in (and adding places) and that can be compared to your FourSquare friends.  When you’ve been someplace more than anyone else (also, more than once and you have to have a picture posted to you FourSquare profile), you become the “Mayor” of that location.  You stay the Mayor until someone unseats you – I’m not sure how many more times they have to check in than you, but you get the point.  Business have started using the “Mayor”-ship as an incentive, providing free food, drink, hotel nights, etc… for the “Mayor”

FourSquare gives you three notification options – you can notify your FourSquare friends when you check in someplace (or not), you can have it posted to Twitter (or not) or to Facebook (or not).  You can do any combination of the above.

So, for example – I got to work – check in when I get to my building.  Go to lunch, check in there.  Go for coffee, check in there.  Go to the gym after work, check in there.  Go for a bite to eat after the gym, check in there, you get the picture.  Thats a lot of checking in.

For those who follow you on your social network, it can be a lot of postings to your time line.  Now, if you have a handful of friends who are using it, wow – that could be overwhelming, depending on how frequently people check in.  On Facebook, you can block applications without blocking a person, so you wont’ see the notices.  Not so on Twitter.

So, this seems to have created a problem for some folks.  In fact, I’m having an ongoing discussion with someone in a Facebook thread on this very topic, which is what prompted this post.  A couple of people have said they “feel like their stalking me”.  A couple of others have said it bothers them that they get this notices.  They don’t mean just from me, but if someone is into social networking, it is likely they know others who are – so one could easily have an handful or two of people checking in  all the time.

Do you use FourSquare?
How often do you check in?
Do you have FourSquare notify Twitter and/or Facebook when you do?
Are the check ins of others starting to bug you?
Do you see any benefit to FourSquare?
How about educational uses – either to learn about someplace or as a tool for learning?
What other questions or comments do you have about it?

[UPDATE] I’ve added the following poll

[polldaddy poll=2540404]

Technology as place?

Although I attended Sloan-C this year, virtually, one of my colleagues attended on site.  She forwarded to me a slideshow from one of the presenters, Steve Kerby from McDaniel College.  Steve talks about “Technology as Place: Designing Environments for Student-Centered Learning”.

You can watch the presentation here:
it’s about 16 minutes long.

The link should open for you in a new window.  Once you’ve watched it, feel free to come back here and in comments let me know what you think.

Is Slideshare trolling?

A few days after the Keynote I did for the Center for Innovative Education at Kean (for which I posted my slidedeck up to Slideshare).  I got the following by email – seemingly from Slideshare:

?The Shifting Landscape: Virtual Worlds in Education” is being tweeted more than any other document on SlideShare right now. So we’ve put it on the homepage of (in the “Hot on Twitter” section).

Well done, you!

- SlideShare Team

?After hovering over the link to make sure it was a legit Slideshare link I ended up on their home page.  I clicked the “hot on twitter” link, but alas – my contribution was not there, as indicated.  I poked around for a while and could not find any sign of it.  In fact, it is not even one of my most viewed slidedecks.

I moved on and forgot about it, until yesterday – when I got that SAME email again.  Now, the number of views has not gone up – at all perhaps, but certainly not appreciably.

So, this begs the question…is slide share trolling out these emails to folks to push them to their site?  I hope that is NOT the case, since I’ve always thought of them as a reputable site that treated its subscribers well.  Has anyone else seen a similar email or had any experience similar to this?

How we decided who gets into our network

With all the social networks out there, how do you decide who you “approve”?  Do you find this decision particularly complex given the different nature of each social network.  Let me give you and example.

Because of work, I have registered for a LOT of social networks.  For instance, I’m on both Facebook and MySpace.  If a faculty members asks me why one is better than the other, I need to be able to respond.  If someone wants to know what the differences are between Plurk and Twitter, I need to speak from experience.  Why?  Because thats part of my job, thats part of what I’m supposed to do.

Now, there are definitely some networks I spend my time in and others I do not.  I actively participate in Twitter.  I do not actively participate in Plurk.  I use an application call to update my status in all my networks.  That is what Plurk was designed to do.  This way I don’t have to open each one and update things, since that just would not happen.  So I send my status update to Ping and it goes to Facebook, Twitter, Plurk, Friendfeed, and so on.  But I have a note right in my Plurk profile that says I do not monitor that account actively.

My basic networks are Twitter, Facebook, and Linked in.  Each is very different in its approach.

With Twitter, when someone follows me, I look at their tweet time line and if there is an interest in what they are saying, I follow them back.  Only if I know someone very well will I follow them if their tweets are protected.  With the exception of children, I don’t see the point of subscribing to Twitter and then protecting your tweets – but thats just me. But I will follow almost anyone, known to me or not, as long as their contribution to my time line will seem interesting.  This is a very broad network.

With Facebook, I’m a bit more restrictive, since there is a greater possibility for “more” information to be shared.  I started out only friending work related people but my social network (family, high school, etc…) caught up very quickly.  I joined FB for a professional reason, I did it for work, not to socialize.  That changes at some point, and I’m ok with that.  If there is not a clear connection to someone, I won’t friend them back.  In fact, in my INFO area, I ask that if someone I don’t know very well is going to friend me, please include some text in the friending process to let me know who you are.  I’m pretty willing to let people in, if I know how I know them.  So this is a more restricted network.

With LinkedIn, in the past, I have been VERY tight with letting people in.  In fact, LinkedIn very clearly states that people you allow in your network should be people you know and can vouch for their work.  But LinkedIn has grown beyond that, I think, and is taking on a much more casual tone about people being in the network.  I’m getting people I barely know asking to join my network.  Until now, I’ve not accepted since I can’t, as the company says, “vouch for their work”.  But that all seems to have changed, now, or so it seems – perhaps I’m wrong.  This, for me, is my most restricted network.

How do you decided to follow on Twitter?  When do you decided to drop someone?  Do you care if you follow someone and they don’t follow you back?

How do you decided who to friend on Facebook?  How do you decide when to accept a friend request?  How about deciding what groups to join or when to accept a “I know SOandSO and I think you know him/her also” friend suggestions?  How closely do you follow people on Facebook?  Have you ever dropped a friend and, if so, why?

Do you only accept networking with people on LinkedIn when you know them very well AND can vouch for their work?  Has the focus of LinkedIn changed in that respect?  Who do you let in and why (or why not)?  How do you determine who to let in?

Are there other online social networks you are part of that you have to make decision like the above for?  If so, which ones and how and when do you make those decisions.