Saturday, February 26, 2011

Facebook's Revamped Privacy Policy

Facebook has been formulating a draft of its privacy policy and plan to make the revised privacy policy much simpler. The policy pretty much mirrors the current official privacy policy of Facebook, but it is written in a much more appealing, understandable way.

Right now, the draft policy features the disclaimer: “We're working on communicating about privacy in a simpler, more interactive way. Let us know what you think by commenting here. This isn't our official privacy policy, which can be found here," with a link to the old policy.

"At Facebook, we are constantly developing new experiences and features to help you control your information," Facebook said in a blog post. "Some of our recent work includes simplified privacy settings and publisher privacy controls that let you select your audience every time you post something on Facebook. We plan a lot more innovations in the months ahead so check back from time to time.”

“However, there is more to controlling your information than just settings," the site added. "It's also important that you understand how information is used and what your choices are. That's why the privacy team took on a new project and applied Facebook's unconventional, innovative spirit to develop a new privacy policy written for regular people."

It went on to say that the new policy is being designed to be easily understood, visual and interactive and focus on the real questions that people are most likely to ask.

Facebook now has more than 500 million users. They have to have some kind of understandable privacy policy that clearly states how the site can use the data that more than 250 million users provide each and every day. Early in 2010, when Facebook first attempted to revamp and simplify its privacy policies, was the last time that the site’s policies were under scrutiny. Some privacy groups simply did not think that they did a good job with the process.

However, privacy policies are not the only thing that Facebook has been criticized for.

Back in December, Facebook received a letter from South Korea. The letter claimed that Facebook was doing an “inadequate” job of protecting the privacy of their users. A week or so after Facebook received the letter from South Korea, the U.S. Commerce Department attempted to formulate an online privacy plan that offered guidelines for how online companies should be using their user-supplied data.

One of the Commerce Department’s main recommendations was that there be a clear set of principles that all companies would have to follow when they collected or used any personal information for commercial purposes. The Commerce Department said that these would be like a “Privacy Bill of Rights.” These rights would hopefully help to promote corporate transparency and put clear limits on the use of user data.

So that the situation could be monitored, the Commerce Department suggested that a privacy policy office be created within the department. That office would then work with the White House, other agencies and stakeholders. The agency also was pushing for greater international collaboration so that they could “find practical means of bridging differences in our privacy frameworks."

Facebook sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission and Commerce Department concerning all of their work on online policy. The letter concluded:

"Facebook applauds the commission and the Commerce Department for their work in developing an updated framework for protecting privacy in a way that encourages the growth of innovative new services. We believe that both reports contain the essential principles that, taken together, can serve as the basic building blocks for a meaningful re-evaluation of our approach to privacy in the United States. We also agree with the FTC's observation that any privacy framework must be dynamic. By implementing the principles in a way that accommodate the evolving and often unpredictable privacy norms of the twenty-first century, we can create a framework that is sensitive to the different expectations of privacy users have in different contexts, maximizes users' ability to control their privacy as they see fit, and promotes continued innovation."

So, yeah, the new draft policy that Facebook is working on may look very similar to the old policy, but there are a few changes. The font is larger, and there are now navigation elements that are built in to the policy. The policy also is now accompanied by illustrations that show users what information will be shown according to which settings they choose.

I personally haven’t had any problems with Facebook’s privacy policies, but obviously, some people have. Hopefully the adjustments that they are making will help to fix any problems that have been arising. Until the plan is fully implemented though, I guess we won’t know.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Comic Book About Mark Zuckerberg? You Better Believe It

Mark Zuckerberg Comic BookI have seen a lot of crazy things happen in the world recently, and the amount of things I have seen has grown immensely since the "Era of the Social Network", as I like to call it, has taken off like a bat out of hell. Sites like MySpace and Facebook have definitely left their mark on society spawning a lot of interesting things from an award-winning film to numerous law suits over privacy and debates about how secure these sites are. But now I think we may have taken it a little too far.

If you are wondering what I am talking about, then let me enlighten you. I am talking about the comic book portraying the life of one of the co-founders of the social media megalord Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, which hit store shelves today. Bluewater Productions, a comic production company out of Canada, released the "giant-sized" 48-page issue which was written by freelance journalist Jerome Maida and illustrated by Sal Field.

According to Maida, "Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire on the planet and created something that has already had a profound impact on the world. Yet hardly anyone knows much about him. It's amazing." Maida added that he is trying to give context to the complex public figure with his portrayal of Zuckerberg. "Rightly or wrongly, Mark dealt harshly with some people on his way to where he is today. As we see, he left many people feeling betrayed. I try my best to be fair here," Maida added.

Zuckerberg became the unwilling center of David Fincher's award-winning film The Social Network thanks to his billionaire status and the multiple lawsuits surrounding Facebook itself. Zuckerberg may also become an animated character thanks to Maida's comic book due to the fact that production company Hayden 5 Media optioned to script the comic into an animated film.

If you want the comic book about Zuckerberg, hop on over to your local comic book shop with $6.99 and pick it up today.

Source: Mashable - The Mark Zuckerberg Comic Book Has Arrived
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Monday, February 21, 2011

Twitter Apps Banned for Violating Policies

On Friday, February 18, Twitter announced that it had suspended the UberTwitter and twidroyd apps because it claimed that both of the apps violated the company’s API policies.

Responding to that, UberTwitter’s Twitter account, which has now been renamed UberSocial, said that it quickly changed all of the violation issues that Twitter had discovered with the app; however, later on Friday Twitter denied this claim.

Although Twitter’s suspension announcement due to the policy violations of the two apps was released via a support post to the company’s Web site, a spokesman from the company provided a better explanation.

"Today we suspended several applications, including UberTwitter, twidroyd and UberCurrent, which have violated Twitter policies and trademarks in a variety of ways," Matt Graves, a spokesman for Twitter, said in an email. "These violations include, but aren't limited to, a privacy issue with private Direct Messages longer than 140 characters, trademark infringement, and changing the content of users' Tweets in order to make money.”

"We've had conversations with UberMedia, the developer of these applications, about policy violations since April 2010 when they first launched under the name TweetUp – a term commonly used by Twitter users and a trademark violation," Graves added ."We continue to be in contact with UberMedia and hope that they will bring the suspended applications into compliance with our policies soon."

Twitter’s blog post also discussed how the company requests that all of their clients work with the Twitter API Terms of Service, which clearly outline all of the terms that have recently been violated.

"Regardless of how you access Twitter, we are dedicated to making Twitter better, faster and more reliable for you," Twitter said. "As part of this effort, we ask applications that work with Twitter to abide by a simple set of rules that we believe are in the interests of our users, and the health and vitality of the Twitter platform as a whole. We often take actions to enforce these rules.”

"We have suspended UberTwitter and twidroyd for violating our policies," the site said. "Every day, we suspend hundreds of applications that are in violation of our policies," Twitter added.

Now usually most of these applications are used by a small fraction of users, but UberTwitter and twidroyd are much more popular.

While these apps are suspended, Twitter has recommended that users go ahead and download the official Twitter client for BlackBerry and Android.

Like I said before, UberTwitter said that they corrected the issues for which the app was suspended. On Friday afternoon, the company tweeted, “We have made the changes Twitter requested. As soon as Twitter reactivates, you will be live again. Thx!" The company also stated that they would be changing its name.

Twitter’s PR account said that these claims by UberTwitter are not true. "We've been talking to UberMedia about policy violations since they were founded. We haven't reached a resolution."

At this same time Twitter was also busy promoting its own mobile Twitter apps via a #TwitterMobile hastag. Twitter never responded to a request for comment about this fact, but others discussed it.

"Yes, and it's total coincidence that on the day they were suspended Twitter ran the promoted Tweet #TwitterMobile and that UberTwitter was never suspended before being bought by Bill Gross & raising $17.5m," Mark Suster, a venture capitalist and partner with GRP Partners, posted on Quora following an additional explanation by Bill Gross, the CEO and founder of UberMedia. "I'm guessing these were total coincidences.”

"As a long-time user of UberTwitter I find this kind of platform behavior offensive," Suster added. "Not as a VC or as somebody who loves Twitter & always has. But as a user of a product Twitter chose to punish. It sure would have been nicer on your users if you issued a public warning and had given them 72 hours to respond. Who you f-cked was me. Your loyal user."


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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Stressed? Maybe You Should Avoid Facebook...

With a Facebook account come many decisions: should you approve or not approve that new friend request, should you like or not like your ex’s last status, and have you responded to that last message that your friend sent you? That’s a lot of decisions to make.

Well, a study has found that managing your Facebook account really leads to stress and anxiety. Some even go so far as to say that the negative psychological effects of Facebook outweigh the benefits that come with staying in touch with your friends through the social networking site.

The study found that there are a variety of different behaviors that come from the stress of managing your account including: delaying replying to friend requests (63 percent of those polled), feeling guilty for rejecting friend requests (32 percent), feeling anxious (12 percent) or disliking receiving friend requests (10 percent). There were other stresses that the study examined concerning getting rid of unwanted contacts, the pressures of being creative and entertaining, and using the appropriate types of etiquette with different “friends.”

The study also seemed to think that the more Facebook friends that a user has the more likely they are to feel stressed out by the site.

"The results threw up a number of paradoxes," said lead researcher Dr. Kathy Charles in a statement. "For instance, although there is great pressure to be on Facebook there is also considerable ambivalence amongst users about its benefits. "

"An overwhelming majority of respondents reported that the best thing about Facebook was 'keeping in touch,' often without any further explanation," she added. "But many also told us they were anxious about withdrawing from the site for fear of missing important social information or offending contacts."

So this whole Facebook study was conducted by a group of psychologists at Edinburgh Napier University. They gathered all of their information through a combination of focus groups, online surveys, and one-on-one interviews. They actually sat down and questioned about 200 students on their use of Facebook and then supplemented that information with research that they gathered from an online survey of 175 participants. The average age of those who were surveyed online was 30.4 years old.

I found this study fascinating. We all live stressful lives, so should we be doing something that is just going to be causing even more stress? I love Facebook. I’ll admit it, but I don’t need it to stress me out even more. That being said, even after examining the results of this study, I don’t think I can just give up Facebook. It’s definitely a very interesting study, but I don’t know if it’s going to cause any change in the use of Facebook.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

New and Improved Twitter for Android App

On Thursday, February 10, Twitter released a new, updated version of its Android app. The social media giant’s upgraded app not only features a new look but also allows non-Twitter users access to the service and a variety of other interesting changes.

Twitter usage for Android has really been skyrocketing lately. According to a blog post by Twitter spokeswoman Carolyn Penner, more and more people are choosing to use Android-based smartphones, and because of this, Twitter usage on Android platforms has doubled in the past two months. Just six months ago Twitter’s Android app wasn’t even in the top ten Twitter apps, but now it’s in the top five apps. It’s sitting right next to twitter.com, m.twitter.com, Twitter for iPhone, and Twitter for BlackBerry.

Because the app was starting to receive some serious usage, there was definitely a need to redesign and revamp the app. Penner wrote that it now “looks and feels like our other official Twitter applications and provides a more consistent experience across platforms and devices.”

The biggest and most surprising feature with the new app is the fact that users can now use Twitter for Android even if they do not have a Twitter account.

“You can view trends, browse your interests and see suggested users in several categories, including fashion, entertainment and travel, or search to find out what people are saying about topics you care about, such as big sporting events," Penner wrote.

If you don’t have a Twitter account and want to get one, Twitter for Android gives you the opportunity to sign up for Twitter from within the app.

Another great thing about the new app is the “significant” redesign. According to Penner, “When you first sign in, you’ll see your timeline, along with icons along the top that let you view @mentions, messages, and lists. This layout makes it fast and simple to navigate Twitter on your Android device. Also, the @mentions tab now includes Retweets; seeing replies and Retweets in one place offers a quick way to better understand which Tweets are sparking interest and engagement. In addition, we introduced auto-complete for usernames.”

She went on to say, “We’ve also introduced universal search to this version of Twitter for Android. This means that when you search, you can find Tweets with the term you’re looking for, Tweets sent by people near your location, or people whose user names include that term.”

"Last but not least, at the bottom of the search section is one of my favorite new features: you can scan your address book to find which of your friends, who have chosen to be discoverable, are also on Twitter," Penner wrote. "New users will get a chance to do this when they first go through the sign-up process on the app."
Twitter didn’t release Twitter for Android until late last April, and the last time that they updated the app was in November.

The newest version of Twitter for Android is now available on smartphones with Android 2.1 or higher.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

No Facebook for Michelle Obama's Kids

anti-facebookMaybe it's just me, but I think Michelle Obama needs a little visit from the fun police. Our nation's First Lady appears to be a nice fun person on the outside but with some of the things she has done and is doing, I'm not so sure. I mean first, we have the dried fruit debacle during Halloween and now we have her campaigning against Facebook.

Do you think Facebook is an o.k. website for your kids to be a part of? Well, Michelle Obama doesn't. In fact, she is rather happy that her two young daughters are not using the biggest social media outlet in the world. But why would Michelle Obama be pleased that her kids are not using Facebook? I mean, it isn't like MySpace, which I deem a little worse with all the teenage girls on the site posting scantily clad pictures of themselves all over the place.

Well, the Obamas two young daughters, Sasha, 9, and Malia, 12, are not allowed to use the social networking site for security reasons. O.k., I can deal with that. I mean I'm sure there are a lot of people out there that would love to use the girls' Facebook accounts for other reasons than connecting with their friends. However, Michelle Obama is not too concerned with her children missing out on Facebook. According to her, "Facebook is not something they need."

Michelle was quoted on NBC's The Today Show as saying, "I'm not a big fan of young kids having Facebook." President Obama is also not keen on the "perils" of social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. President Obama recently spoke to students at a high school in Virginia and warned them about Facebook. Obama made it a point to tell them to be "careful about what they post on Facebook" because it could "be pulled up again later somewhere in life."

I'm not so sure about that. I can honestly say that I do not believe that somebody would search through years and years worth of Facebook updates and comments to find something about a person. Now granted there are a few security risks with allowing your child to have a Facebook account but I do not feel that they are any different than the risks your child could face out in the real world.

Facebook does have a "requirement" that users be 13 years of age or older but, as we all know, it is pretty easy to lie about your age on the internet. There is also the question of what age parents should allow their child to get a Facebook account or another social media account. To be honest, I feel like that is all up to the individual parent but with how tech savvy kids are these days I don't think a parent could do much to stop them.

What do you think? Do you think there should be an age limit for kids on Facebook? Do agree with Michelle Obama about not wanting her kids on the social media site? Let us know in the comment section below.

Source: Mashable - Michelle Obama Doesn't Want Her Kids to Use Facebook


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Saturday, February 05, 2011

LinkedIn is Going Public

On Thursday, January 27, LinkedIn formally announced that it was planning on going public by filing an S-1 form with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. So, "Why is this a big deal?" you might ask. Well, this is the one of the first times that the business networking site has turned over any real detailed facts about its financial affairs.

"We believe we are transforming the way people work by connecting talent with opportunity at massive scale," LinkedIn explained in its filing. "Our goal is to provide a global platform capable of mapping every professional's experience, skills, and other relevant professional data to his or her professional graph, including connections with colleagues and business contacts."

While LinkedIn has been in business, they have actually managed to make some money. They have done this via the combination of advertising and business services. The net revenue for LinkedIn during the first nine months of 2009 was around $80 million with a profit of only $3.4 million. In that same period of time in 2010, LinkedIn was able to pull in a net revenue of $161 million and made a profit of $10 million. The company was able to more than double their profits in a year. That’s crazy!

LinkedIn is not only increasing their profitability, but also the number of registered members that it can now brag about. Last year, the total number of registered LinkedIn users reached 55 million, but this year it has increased to more than 90 million. This was a statistic that the formerly very private company was very open and vocal about. In the company’s S-1 filing, they were open about the fact that although these numbers show the number of registered members of LinkedIn that does not mean that they are active users. The company also went on to say that it is really a minority of its users that are responsible for the “substantial” amount of the 5.5 billion page views that the company can boast.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

eMarketer Predicting a Healthy Future for Twitter

A report released on Monday, January 24 predicted a very healthy future for Twitter. It claimed that the social networking phenomenon should triple its growth in revenues from what the site earned in 2010.

The report from eMarketer predicts that Twitter will earn more than $150 million in revenues from advertising in 2011. This is a little more than triple times the amount that they earned in 2010. They even went so far as predicting that in 2012 the company should earn as much as $250 million.

Twitter seems to have exploded in the past year. Almost 8 percent of U.S. Internet users are on Twitter. The site not only has an incredible presence on the Web but also on most smartphone platforms.

Twitter just seems to continue to expand. Just this month Twitter for the Mac debuted. Twitter’s Carolyn Penner wrote, "This app gives Twitter users another fast and convenient way to stay connected to what they care about most. Tweets appear in real-time (using our streaming API), and the app auto-shortens URLs and has lots of useful keyboard shortcuts."

Penner claims that the new app is “three times faster than its original version,” which was called Tweetie for Mac. This original app was created by a company that Twitter had acquired in April called atebits. Penner continued saying, “We acquired atebits with a focus on launching our own Twitter iPhone application. Since then, we've been asked repeatedly for a new version of Tweetie for Mac. We decided that the new version fits well into our goal of ensuring that mainstream users will have the best possible experience on all platforms."

“If Twitter can grow its user base and convince marketers of its value as a go-to secondary player to Facebook, it will succeed in gaining revenue,” said Debra Aho Williamson, eMarketer principal analyst. “In 2011 it must work overtime to give its early advertisers a positive experience.”

eMarketer really believes that Twitter will bring in $150 million in revenue in 2011 and $250 million in 2012. Really though, this looks like nothing compared to what they are predicting for Facebook. The firm estimates that in 2011 Facebook will bring in $4.05 billion in revenues and $5.74 billion in 2012. Unfortunately for MySpace, eMarketer is predicting that their revenues will be heading downward. MySpace’s ad revenues in 2010 brought in $288 million, but eMarketer believes that in 2011 MySpace will only bring in $184 million and $156 million in 2012.

Twitter is really doing well and, according to eMarketer, will continue to do well. Ever since Twitter’s founders Biz Stone and Ev Williams talked at the Chip conference and promised Twitter users that they would smooth out the company’s developer relations and improve its business operations, Twitter has done even better than it was doing.

They really have been improving, and the proof is in the numbers. In November 2010 Twitter reached an uptime of 100 percent. According to Royal Pingdom’s uptime tracker, the site was only down for a single minute the whole month. In the early years of the Twitter, the site was plagued by the “fail whale.” They really have taken care of this problem though. In December and January the site hit an uptime of 99.83 and 99.92 percent respectively.

I agree with eMarketer that Twitter will have a very bright future. I have definitely personally seen the expansion of the use of Twitter among my friends, family members, and colleagues, and obviously, this seems to be happening all around the world. I don’t know if Twitter will meet the marks that eMarketer has set for them concerning ad revenues, but I guess we won’t know for at least another year.

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