I feel that I should mention ALA Connect

ALA’s press release about ALA Connect and their blog announcement. ALA Connect itself. You don’t have to be a member. I signed up just to check out the user experience. They required me to have a username that includes my first and last name (i.e. different from every other username I have on the entire Internet, and that’s saying something) so you can find me there as: jess amyn.

As a non-member I’m limited to what I can do. I can tell you something I can do: figure out the first and last name of every ALA member, their work affiliation and what their level of ALA involvement is. It’s a little complicated, but I’m somewhat surprised that this is even possible. I can see a lot of people’s photos. People who might be surprised that their names and photos are up on a site that anyone can belong to. You know me, I’m a big social networker and my name address and phone number are all over everywhere, so I may be worrying for no good reason. Do people care if everyone knows that they’re a member of the Social Responsibilities Round Table (hey, I made that graphic, back in 1997!), perhaps not. It’s certainly useful to me as a non-member to find people I might want to ask about certain things and a ton easier than searching the website. Go see what you think.

thinky paper about facebook and privacy and the law

My friend James Grimmelman, New York Law School professor, has published a paper about Facebook and Privacy which is my Labor Day reading. In it he asserts that while Facebook is partially culpable for having bad privacy policies and practices, a more nefarious side-effect of the Facebook universe is that the model encourages people to violate each other’s privacy. When you share information about yourself, you wind up sharing information about others who may have different approaches to personal privacy than you do. If you’re interested in understanding more about the Facebook mechanisms from someone who both uses and studies it, I suggest giving this article a read.

You think you’re my friend; I disagree. We may be able to work together in real life without needing to confront the basic fact that you like me but not vice versa. But if you Facebook-add me and say “We dated,” what am I supposed to do? Uncheck that box and check “I don’t even know this person?” Divergences are made manifest, sometimes to mutual chagrin.

Facebook’s reputation on privacy matters is terrible. When people use “Facebook” and “privacy” in the same sentence, the word in between is never “protects.” Facebook’s privacy missteps haven’t just drawn the attention of bloggers, journalists, scholars, watchdog groups, and regulators, they’ve also sparked mass outrage among Facebook users. An anti-Beacon group attracted over 70,000 members. and an anti-News Feed group over 700,000. Facebook’s pattern—launch a problematic feature, offer a ham-handed response to initial complaints, and ultimately make a partial retreat—hasn’t given it much privacy credibility. In short, consumers don’t, can’t, couldn’t, and shouldn’t rely on Facebook’s privacy policy to protect their personal information as they use it.

If you read all the way down to page 40 or so, you’ll get some analysis of legal attempts at social networking site use restrictions including DOPA which many librarians should be familiar with.

SEMLS workshop on Wednesday

I’m digging into social software for libraries again as I prepare for a workshop I’ll be giving on Wednesday at the Southeastern Massachusetts Library System. Usually when I do this I try to find good examples of social technology being used by librarians in whatever region I am speaking in. In Dubai this was a terrific challenge, in the SEMLS location it will be harder just to pick one or two examples. Look at their website and how nice it looks and how fresh the content is! In Googling around to find a good link for my talk, I also found their wiki, the del.icio.us tag for their learning 2.0 project and their tech watch and news blogs.

The other little piece I’m adding is some statistical perspective. Fred Stutzman — whose blog is always a great source of data about social sites, particularly Facebook and the privacy/identity issues involved with them — found that by digging around in a Pew report about peple’s use of the Internet during the presidential campaign, he could glean information about people’s use of social networking generally.

22% of Americans use SNS. Broken down by age range, 67% of those age 18-29, 21% of those 30-39, and 6% of those 40+ use SNS. Based on 1430 respondents, margin of error should be about +/- 3%. This is a nice statistic for those who have been relying on self-reports and press accounts.

be social – explaining social networks to librarians and parents

I did a short tour of some New Hampshire libraries over the past few days. I did a little talk called MyWhat? Decoding social technologies.. It’s only about five slides but most of it was doing a tour of some of the more popular social networks [Facebook, MySpace, Flickr] and showing how they worked, how kids were using them and what parents and librarians should know.

Remember that a lot of the digital divide that we deal with now isn’t that people don’t have computers per se, it’s that they’re not in networks and groups of people that understand them and can answer complex questions about them. The library is often an integral link in this equation. A lot of my time at these talks is spent answering questions about how these social tools work, how I use them, how librarians might use them, and how kids and teens can use them safely and effectively. A lot of the print materials I’ve come across err on the side of caution which is not a bad idea but often there’s no “Hey you really SHOULD try this” couterpoint. I hope I was able to offer that somewhat.