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Or-Tal's Writings

entrepreneur/mother/education revolutionist/high tech addict

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The Paradox of Online Privacy

Last night, at a diner party, people were discussing the latest online privacy issues concerning the recent changes by Facebook. One friend mentioned what she likes about people’s online presence is the fact that it is so easy to gather so much information about people. The other said she doesn’t have a Facebook account out of fear for her privacy, and mainly of loosing control over her information online.

This morning I found the latter’s personal details online: her name, position, home address, land line and mobile phone number, email, and at least one clear photo with her husbands on some non-profit organization’s newsletter.

Privacy is no longer.

Or at least it is re-defined.
If you live in this online era, you have to understand that defining your privacy on Facebook, even before the recent changes in the privacy settings, is like whispering to a friend when you are in a packed mall. You might think that only your friend heard what you whispered, but you can never be sure that a lip reader haven’t got you from the other end of the passage. You can also never be a hundred percent sure that this friend won’t repeat what you said and quote you.

Being online is being public. Being connected is being part of the public. I am not saying you can’t live without it, I’m just saying that chances are you are friends with someone who is online, and that means that a part of you, belongs to your friend, and is probably already online in a way. I think it’s valuable to gain control over your online presence. People can tag you in a photo even if you are not on Facebook or not connected to them. When you are, and the photo didn’t come out nice, you can remove your tag. If you are on Facebook and you want to see what people can see about you – use this tool. What ever is there – is available because you put it there.

The big commotion in the recent days concerns Facebook sharing your preferences and interests with advertisers, which are 3rd parties. The loss of control can justly freak us all out. Even though you are not obliged to fill out all this information – your preferences, favorites, activities and hobbies – many choose to do it, as a way of declaring their identities to their online friends, some of which don’t really know them closely. The only upside I see about the transfer of this information is that I might actually get to see some targeted advertising, and not irrelevant sometime offensive ads. If I chose to publish my interest to my hundreds, sometimes thousands, of Facebook friends, I see no problem in advertisers using this data. As long as they don’t get my personal data such as phone numbers or email or private address. There I would definitely draw the line, or start using fake data, which would back fire to Facebook.

The other thing is the Facebook “like” button populating other sites. Clicking it shows on this site, to your friends, that you liked the site or the post, and it shows on your profile too. The only difference from the previous share option is that the site may present its likers too. As a blog owner I want to use it too. Unfortunately, wordpress.com don’t enable this yet, and so I have to settle for the lesser version of “getsociallive” and present my likers on their servers.

The Young Problem

The main problem with online presence really concerns kids. Officially Facebook meets the COPPA laws by limiting the age of registered users to 14 and up. Practically, the average user age is dropping every day. Kids lie about their age without a blink, not thinking about it twice, and consider Facebook their own environment.

They connect with classmates, sometimes with older kids, sometimes with younger kids, but they also connect to their parents, or teachers, or guides, or friends of their parents, or older friends of the older sister… I hardly know any kids on Facebook who is not connected to adults.

The connection itself is OK. Sometimes even blessed. It leads to better relationship between youth and adults and opens a sort of a back channel of communications. But many of those kids, sometimes “friends collectors” aren’t fully aware of the face that each status may reach many circles. It’s pretty complicated for a child to manage his connections into groups and then choose each time who gets to see what.

In addition, when they submit information about themselves they often use humor and exaggeration, and not necessarily their true interests, which in turn might lead to exactly the wrong type of ads for them.
Facebook is ignoring this problem. Officially they have no data relating to kids. But at some point they will have to create a young Facebook, to enable safe and legal usage of Facebook by kids.

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Facebook Therapy for Teens

I have a privilege. I am connected to so many young people, my kids age, around the world, and basically invited to peek into their lives. I am not involved. I dare not speak. But I look and listen and try to grasp their reality. I have an opportunity my parents never had.

So, first of all, I am flattered, of being trusted enough. Now comes the observation. What are they talking about? What is the mood? What impresses them or occupies them? How much of their social life is managed online, and how much is offline?

And when I am looking for the answer to this question, I wonder about the difference between online and offline socializing. What does online give, that offline can’t (there’s been enough talk about the other way around…).

There has been so much criticism about the online social life. About kids clinging to their facebook-myspace pages for hours a day. Fears regarding net-safety and cyber bullying. Scares about the re-wiring of these young brains. Talks about their physical shape, changed by the growing number of sitting hours that they spend each day.

But I would like to point out some really great things that the online socializing does and might be overlooked.

I don’t know if anyone ever bothered to run a statistics about the percentage of teens who kept a diary or expressed themselves in various forms of writing 10 or 20 years ago. But I do know they percentage of teens who do it nowadays is extremely high. According to a recent publication from PewInternet.org 93% of teens ages 12-17 use the Internet. 64% of teens are content creators. Writers.

What does it mean? And why is it of significance? I am thinking writing and biblio-therapy here. Venting.

I remember what it was to be a teen. Flooded with extreme emotions. Living a daily drama. Struggling to gain my independence, discover and re-shape my self. Wanting to do well at my studies, yet stay alive socially. I used to write a diary. I also wrote hundreds of poems. That was my way of venting. However, I didn’t have too many sharing options, and at times, the feeling you are alone, was the toughest. This sort of writing was more “for the drawer”. Looking at my kids I see something else.

What social networks give them is the opportunity for a natural support group. The discovery that they are not alone. This is a great social achievement.

So once we take a break from criticizing teens’ “inappropriate” online behavior, let’s talk about the cultivation of a new type of teen empathy. It might be difficult for them to note in the classroom that one of the students is ‘depressed’, but once he wrote it on his FaceBook status it generates a flood of comments. Suddenly the depressed is not alone, they “joined a club”. There is a kind of comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone. That’s the start of therapy.
fbdperssd1
So I am watching with wonder and see the budding of empathy, caring, humor and intellect of the next generation. I am also seeing how different this blossom is, from any previous generations.

Control your info?? On the Internet??

I read Mark Zuckerberg’s blog titled “On Facebook, People Own and Control Their Information” and thought.

I remember a time when I regretted that my phone number appeared on the printed phone directory. Once the directory was printed and circulated there was nothing I could do to change it, delete it, retrieve it or make it go away. Hundreds of thousands of people had this private information at their disposal.
I waited a whole year till the next directory was published without my details, and hoped that people quickly dumped the older, out of date, copy.

But the online life actually awards us better opportunities to control our information, even if it’s slightly more complicated.

True, we cannot control information that was already circulated, distributed, copied or passed on to our friends and contacts, and their friends and contacts. But why not enable us full control on those items which we have published or uploaded and are identified with us? This control should be definitely ours.

Not according to Facebook. Here is the phrasing of their new terms of service, the problematic part only:
“You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof.”

Facebook is assuming ownership of copyrighted material. How does that settle even with the friendliest CC? They think they have a right to use any information I put on Facebook for their own commercial gain – and to use it not only when I am using Facebook, but forever. It’s as if Flickr or Picasa will suddenly decide they own all the photos on their servers and can use them for commercial gain however they like.

To be honest, I can’t imagine giving up Facebook at the moment. I am using other networks too. Good old LinkedIn at the top, and Twitter, as one of the recent I joined. But Facebook somehow allows the mixed networking of formal and non formal, friends and family, business and fun. If you want to hear and be heard – Facebook is your main channel. You need to learn of events and happenings – this is the way. There isn’t a day I don’t visit my Facebook homepage at least once, mostly more.

But I must admit I will think twice before tagging images of myself, not to mention uploading any photos I’ve taken, adding notes or blogs or any other creations. I don’t mind very much, though, about my personal profile. Mainly because I carefully created this online profile and coordinated it with my profiles on other networks as well. I carefully chose the information I wanted to post and the information I should keep to myself. On a standard Facebook profile page one is asked, for example, on political views or religion – things that are definitely not for public sharing and eternal storing.

Back to print. I gave someone a business card. Actually, believe it or not, it was on an Internet World convention a thousand years ago. On the back I wrote my private Yahoo email address. I was recently contacted by this person. Looks like my business card survived “for ever”. But I didn’t mind the survival of such info forever. My yearbook photo also exists forever. So what?

However, if the poems I wrote to my high school sweetheart when I was 17 were suddenly published, because I was once a member of some club or network who chose to store and own it – I might have been slightly embarrassed. To some people their past creations, photos or publications can be even detrimental, financially or socially.

My suggestion? Think twice about the information you are donating to Facebook, oops, sorry, publishing on Facebook.

Brainstorming with my daughter

I love brainstorming. This is really one of the best ways to achieve results. I encourage brainstorming in all levels of the organization, for many types of questions or problems. Being a self employed independent consultant I don’t have co-workers to brainstorm with, but I often brainstorm with my clients or with other, third parties, involved in the service rendered.

When it comes to my startup-idea, I didn’t really know who I can brainstorm with. I don’t have any partners, yet. Surely enough no co-workers. My husband, chief brainstormer, doesn’t posses enough knowledge of this industry to help here. It’s been staring me in the face for so long, that I don’t understand how only last night I realized it:

My 13 year old daughter is the best brainstormer for this project! She has been the chief inspiration for the project, so why not brainstorm with her?

For the past several weeks I have been the coolest mom ever for my kids, while I introduced them every other day to a new web site with games, networking or virtual worlds. I collected their impressions, and sometimes their friends’ impressions, like a spontaneous, accessible, focus group. Based on these impressions and my own research I started to create a document describing the system I am planning to create. But something was missing all this time.

Yesterday, while she was dragging me to work out, walking around the neighborhood streets, I asked her if she would like to hear what I am working on. While I started to describe the project she contributed her feedback, which evolved into ideas. My concept is different from all major sites so you have to be a flexible and creative thinker.

mother and daughter

I was impressed by her ability to think marketing, communications and to suggest technical features. Like a good brainstorming session it evolved to a ping-pong. Her being a 13 year old girl, without any hi-tech experience, only contributed.

When we got home we both concluded that it was a very good workout…

Does online networking also give you the jitters?

Last Thursday I held my 3rd Entrepreneurs Meetup event in Tel-Aviv. I think about 60 people attended and it went very well. The day before I had those regular jitters and “what if’s” annoying thoughts, but once I cleared those I knew the jitters will go away too.

 

The Tel-Aviv-Yafo Entrepreneurs Meetup group was established via the meetup.com web site by a fellow entrepreneur, Gadi Guy. The basic idea is to create an online community over the web site, which actually gets out and meets, in the real world, for some real live networking. I was appointed organizer of the group about 4 months ago and took it very seriously. It shows: we are up from barely 12 who showed up to the November meeting (5 of them personal friends) to approximately 60 on each of the following meetups which I organized and unfortunately had to close registration to at some point.

 

Strangely enough only a year ago I dreaded networking. I would go to a public event not knowing where to place myself. Thinking once to often about where I am looking (“don’t stare!”) and how I am holding my hands (“don’t cross them!”) or what the hell am I supposed to say to create that magic called networking. With the help and guidance of my amazing business coach, Ziv Malbin, I learned how to do it. Still getting those jitters every time, but able to perform.

 

Networking is one of the best marketing tools available to us. It has always been this way, but in these last several years, networking has taken on more faces and formats than we can list or follow. Online networking has brought this on and the current trends show that online is definitely not taking the place of real-life networking, it’s only enhancing it, magically, wildly and beyond our wildest imagination, taking us to places we never thought we could reach.

 

This post will be continued…

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