Categories
Social Web

Facebook, @Path and privacy – redux

One of the fundamental differences between Facebook and Path is that Path is designed around privacy, Facebook isn’t. On Facebook you have to really work to retain some degree of privacy. You have to set up your sharing preferences carefully, decide whether search engines should be able to index your profile and who can re-share your stuff, tag you and more.

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In Path, you can, at best, see that a person is a Path user, how long that person has been using Path and how many moments that person has shared. That is, unless that person hasn’t deselected the option that limits discoverability to friends. If the Path user does that, you can’t even find the person by searching for her.

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If you only want to share your moments with your friends and family and not with Facebook and its advertisers, try Path out. You can always set Path up to publish to Facebook too. What is the worst that can happen? Advertisers won’t be happy with you?

Categories
Social Web

Path is the better personal network you've been waiting for

Path – Share Life from Path on Vimeo.

Path doesn’t have Facebook’s users or nearly as much public awareness and yet it is, by far, a superior personal network. For many people, Path is the social network they were hoping Facebook would be and isn’t.

I know a few friends and family who are apprehensive about Facebook and either use it reluctantly or skip it altogether. If they use it, it’s generally because their friends and family members are using Facebook to share stuff not because they see it as a meaningful way to keep in touch with the people they care most about. The problem is that Facebook is optimised for publicity and this makes a lot of people nervous because they could wake up one day and discover that Facebook made a change that exposes more of their data than they are comfortable with. It’s happened many times before.

On the other hand, Path is designed for a very personal, private experience. It is fundamentally different because of its emphasis on a more personal and meaningful experience. When people talk about any social network they almost inevitably compare it with Facebook and, given Path’s relatively tiny userbase, Path is frequently dismissed as Dave Morin’s wishful thinking. That is also a really superficial perception.

We essentially pay for our Facebook access using our personal information (demographics, preferences and connections) which Facebook uses to personalise ads we are inundated with in Facebook. That works better if we spend more time using Facebook and, in the process, giving Facebook more signals about which ads to present is with and which friends to associate with brands so we’d be more likely to click on pages and ads.

Because Path is not ad supported like Facebook, there is no need to persuade users to share anything publicly. Instead, Path is designed for privacy. Your default is to share with your connections who are preferably real friends and family members. The idea with the 150 connection limit in Path is to encourage users to focus on more meaningful and personal connections unlike on Facebook where users are constantly prompted to add more “Friends” whose value is ultimately sell more valuable ads.

When it comes to Path, having 20 connections is perfect if those 20 connections represent your real friends and family members who you most want to share your life’s moments with. Consider how many Facebook “Friends” you have. How many of those Facebook Friends would you regard as real friends? Is Facebook really a personal network or is its appeal its inertia?

Sure, Path’s utility to you is still dependent on whether the people you most want to connect with are Path users and that is likely to be the reason why most people will stick with Facebook with its overbearing ads and changing publicity settings.

It may be possible to improve your Facebook experience by trimming your list of friends and brands you follow. You should also see more updates from your Friends if you sort them into individual lists and check in with those lists (Google+ handles these lists far better with its Circles) but if you want a simple and beautiful way to share meaningfully, perhaps you should take a closer look at Path. Better yet, install it and try it out for a while. It may be what you’ve been waiting for.

Categories
Social Web

Why you would ditch Facebook and use Path

I’ve found myself thinking about Path more in the last few weeks or so and when it would make sense to turn away from the mammoth in the room: Facebook?

Rather than get caught up in the usual arguments against using Path, I thought I’d look at this mobile-first, personal network from a different perspective and ask why it makes sense to use Path even though most of us already use Facebook?

Join Path from Path on Vimeo.

I suppose the starting point is that Path makes sense if you want an alternative to Facebook as the service you use to share your life and thoughts. Sure it is a massive social network and odds are that most of your friends and family are on Facebook but is Facebook all that personal anymore?

“Friends” doesn’t mean friends anymore and it is becoming increasingly clear that the Facebook News Feed is as much about ads as it is about the few meaningful updates about your “friends” you may want to receive. In fact, as a Facebook user, you tend to see relatively few updates from your connections because Facebook’s algorithms filter the updates for you and pick what you would probably be interested in, usually leaving out what you really are interested in seeing. This is fine if you don’t care too much about your so-called Facebook friends but it is a problem if your reason for using Facebook is to take part in your real family members’ and friends’ lives.

On Path, you see what your fewer (150 maximum) friends post and a great time-date stamp indicator gives you a much better sense of a timeline than your Facebook Timeline. You have to be more selective about who you connect with so you are forced to focus on true friends and family members. I recently went through my Facebook connections and found myself removing a lot of connections to people I don’t know at all or drifted away from and probably won’t reconnect with.

I wonder how much sharing I do for the sake of sharing without it being meaningful? When I share updates these days, I share to multiple services because my connections are scattered. That is exhausting and I have a strong desire to simplify this aspect of my life so I can stop thinking about where to share stuff and focus on sharing more meaningfully.

Path Stories – Claire from Path on Vimeo.

Path is an interesting service. It doesn’t lend itself to publicity like Facebook. It is designed for intimacy and privacy while Facebook is designed for publicity (2014-01-10 Correction: publicity, not privacy). If you step back you see how those different approaches manifest in the services.

Path doesn’t have brand pages to like (at least, not yet) and keep up with. Unless you are determined to introduce brand updates into your activity feed, this is probably a relief. I wonder if the reason why brand updates are integrated into our Facebook News Feed isn’t because Facebook ultimately has to show value to advertisers in being on Facebook and paying for ads. That happens if our attention is focused on those brands.

On Path your focus is on friends and family. You share your life with them moment by moment as you experience those moments. You don’t have a Web app for Path, it is all mobile so it is perfect for sharing your moments while you live them, not living your life on Facebook. I like the idea of sharing not getting in the way or being sucked into Facebook because my access to Facebook is funded spending more and more time in my News Feed.

Path also doesn’t support photo albums like Facebook does so Path is not another service to upload albums of photos. That can be taken care of using other services like Flickr (yes, been around a while but looking better and better) which allow for public and more private photo sharing. On Path, you share photos and videos which represent moments as they happen because that is all about sharing the moment, not building up a collection of albums for perpetuity. In this sense Path is a bit like Instagram. It’s more about your lifestream.

If Path is where you share personal experiences with your friends and family, you’ll probably use Twitter for public updates and perhaps your WordPress blog for longer pieces. WordPress integrates with Path so you can share his blog posts in Path (although it isn’t a terribly appealing implementation at the moment – basically a title and a link). I can see these apps fitting into a simpler, flexible and more meaningful set of sharing options.

]9 An alternative home screen

Path is a lightweight way to share moments in your day with your friends and keep in touch with them through their Path streams as well as private messages. Imagine Facebook without the ads and cruft; with only your real family and friends. It seems to fit well in a trend away from Facebook to options like WhatsApp groups for private sharing although one big challenge is platform support. Path is currently only available on iOS, Android and Kindle Fire devices. A Windows Phone version is apparently coming soon.

Another nice feature is contextual search which you can use to search for moments based on a variety of criteria. It’s nicely implemented even if it isn’t necessarily the reason why you would use Path over something else.

Path – “Remember Life.” from Path on Vimeo.

I’ve thought about the possibility of switching to Google+ if I decided that it was time to really move on from Facebook. Google+ hasn’t really become a significant personal sharing network. It is closer to Twitter which, in turns, is beefing up personal sharing through more emphasis on direct messaging but still doesn’t qualify as a meaningful personal sharing network if your idea of a personal sharing network is limited to real friends and family.

The challenge with Path is still whether your friends and family are using it and, in most cases, they aren’t. They’re on Facebook. I have a couple newer friends on Path and even though my older friends and family don’t use Path, it is interesting to see new friendships form and grow on Path. I’d love to see more of my friends and family trying Path out. It is probably the only way to really see whether it is a worthwhile alternative to Facebook but the network effect is compelling.

That said, with Path’s emphasis being on smaller and private circles of friends and family, comparisons to Facebook’s user numbers are largely irrelevant. If your 20 close friends and family members are using Path with you, it doesn’t matter how many people are using Facebook. What is important is that the people who matter most to you are using Path with you. Isn’t that more meaningful?

Categories
Blogs and blogging Creative expression Miscellany

Techno frazzled

 

I’m hypothetically on leave at the moment (back at work on the 6th) and my plan was to pull my mind back from the ledge it has lived on for the past year or so and back to rolling green fields caressed by cool breezes and the sounds of my children’s laughter. As usual, it takes a little longer than I expect for my mind to calm enough to meet a semblance of my idea of being on holiday but I have high hopes for the few days remaining.

Anyway, one of the things I have noticed as I strive to spend more human time with our kids and my wife is how easily I am caught up by an array of digital inputs and streams on my iPad and iPhone. I disabled email notifications (sort of) so that isn’t bombarding me but what I realised today is that I am still frazzled because I am constantly flipping between my feeds, an ebook or two, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Path (a bit), Flipboard versions of most of the previous items and the desire to write more for this blog. That is before I get to the bit where I spend more than a few minutes focused on our kids and whatever they want to tell me or do with me.

I’ve accepted a totally fragmented and, quite possibly, upside down array of services, inputs and outputs because I have been so hectic, sorting out that mess hasn’t really been a big priority. Lately I’ve been thinking more and more about this blog and its value to me as a core expression platform which I control (well, more than most of the others I use) and which can function as a fairly decent reference point of who I am and what I think about, generally speaking. Unfortunately WordPress isn’t as good as Tumblr or Google+ when it comes to sharing mixed-content items so I have been thinking about using those services more and for the sorts of things I’d rather publish here and a number of variations.

I found myself in a ridiculous position of reading a post on Flipboard I wanted to share and spending about 5 minutes sharing to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ (or, as an alternative, to Tumblr instead of Twitter and Facebook because Tumblr then shares with Twitter and Facebook) even though I’d much rather share directly to my WordPress blog and keep it all on one site. Reading articles and sharing them has become an utter pain in the butt. It is just too much effort, depending on where I read the article. Sharing items I pick up on in Reeder is quite a bit easier because of Buffer integration but I still have this complexity beneath it all and two aspects of the insanity have been particularly vexing: what do I do with this blog to make it a more meaningful part of my digital life and identity and do I continue attempting to use Tumblr and Google+, alongside other profiles for the quick shares? Surely this is far too convoluted?

Realising my self-induced techno frazzled state was keeping me from both a relaxing week and a half off and being more productive; I decided to find ways to simplify my process. I really like my blog and using it as a central hub. I’ve been reading a number of posts about blogging and Om Malik’s post stands out for me as a nice explanation of what I’d like to do with this blog:

And while I embrace every new social platform with gusto, I find it frustrating that my point of view is spliced across various networks. I think the blog is the one that ties it all together — a central location where you fit together all the Lego pieces. In many ways it is no different than what blogs used to be in the beginning. Instead of them being a starting point of the journey, they are now the final stop, a digital home in our social media meanderings. Marc Canter,came up with a concept called “digital life aggregators.” And he was right — blogs are just that, digital life aggregators.

It occurred to me that I probably have a pretty backwards workflow and could also ditch a couple channels I have been forcing into my others. One that came to mind is Tumblr which I have always liked but couldn’t really find a comfortable space for as a way to share stuff as a sort of secondary blog. I tried using it as a standalone blog; importing it into my main blog and, lately, adding a widget from my Tumblr feed to my blog to bolt it on, so to speak.

When I started thinking about simplifying it all, the solution to my Tumblr challenge was pretty simple, in retrospect: stop using Tumblr to share miscellaneous stuff that is pretty lightweight but not substantive enough to bother with a relatively manual process of posting it to this blog. Instead (and it’s almost embarrassing it has taken me so long to have this epiphany) I’ll just use Twitter for that stuff. So between my blog and Twitter, I have my content creation covered. Tumblr then falls into line with Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter (wearing the other hat) as ways to share my posts and other stuff with people who may be interested and who are firmly entrenched into these services.

One thing that seems to have emerged from the social Web is how the engagement part of the interaction has been separated from, and only remains loosely associated with, the source posts on my blog. It’s a bit like using separate speakers connected through a receiver for your home entertainment system instead of the speakers built into your TV. The engagement end of that barrel is still a series of pipes but it starts to simplify what I share on this blog and which is lighter weight stuff which I’ll share through Twitter either on its own or with other, appropriate services.

One of the thoughts I had about dropping Tumblr for Twitter (well, the thought after how I have finally caught up with how most people must be using Twitter) is how its updates and changes have changed its look and functionality to do a lot of what Tumblr does (specifically with inline media). It makes more sense to me, at any rate.

I still feel like there is a lot more room to simplify everything. I could cut back on many of the services I use but I keep thinking that would be pretty short-sighted. So, here I am, thinking out loud about how my inability to cut through my techno frazzle has frustrated my strong desire to spend far more time doing more quality human stuff with my family.

Categories
Social Web Useful stuff

My WordPress blog and Google+ – BFFs

I have a newfound appreciation for my far too neglected WordPress blog. I noticed I could connect my blog to my Google+ profile a couple months ago (so I did). What I have only begun to appreciate is how deeply my blog integrates into Google+. One thing I appreciate more and more is how I can publish my blog posts to my Google+ profile.

The first date

This sounds trivial because it’s been possible to publish posts to Twitter and Facebook for a long time now but given how few non-Google services can publish to a personal Google+ profile, this integration is terrific. It makes my blog a more meaningful lifestream and sharing hub.

Now if only I could figure out how to easily share from Flipboard to my blog like I can with Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Tumblr.

Categories
Mindsets Social Web

Why we fear Facebook and why we shouldn't?

Rian van der Merwe published a post which touches on a recurring theme which I have been thinking about for a while: we should fear Facebook/Google/Twitter because of all the data they hold about us.

I keep wondering why? There are good reasons to be afraid of what these services may know about us in some circumstances. If, for example, you are in a country run by ruthless despots, being identified as the person behind a Twitter profile advocating revolution is worrying. If you are engaged in criminal acts, you should be worried that the authorities may be able to use your Foursquare or Facebook location data to tie you to your escapades.

On the other hand, if you live in a country that doesn’t (overly) victimise its citizens and leaves you to express yourself legitimately and without reprisals, what do you have to fear from these major social services? Certainly sharing your home or children’s schools’ locations could compromise their and your security and you should be concerned about that (or you just shouldn’t share that information in the first place). Facebook could decide to make all shared updates public and expose your private thoughts. That could be worrying too.

But what about Facebook knowing more about our preferences and activities and presenting us with more relevant (if somewhat annoying) ads? Why is that a problem? Sure, we would probably mostly prefer not to see ads at all but Facebook is free, is really large and requires a lot of mine to operate. The same is true of Twitter, Foursquare and Google services.

Conventional wisdom is that if you are not paying for a product, you are the product. That may be true, as a generalisation. I prefer to think it isn’t so much we who are the products on Facebook but rather our preferences and attention. What does that buy us? For starters, it buys us Facebook, Twitter, Google services and more. It also buys us slightly less annoying ads that can be remarkably relevant. It buys advertisers a better chance that we may want to buy their products and services (we’re not doing that because our lives or our loved ones’ loves are at stake) because those products and services may just be what we are looking for at that point in time.

I’m not so sure we should be afraid of social networks. We should be afraid of persecution dictatorial governments and overreaching government bodies that make use of what we share to further their oppressive agendas, but social networks because they enable sharing in the first place? I don’t think so. What should concern us more is our ignorance of what our privacy controls are on different services and our failure to make smarter and more considered decisions about what to share and where to share that.

In many respects the social services we have today give us more ways to safeguard our privacy than we had when the social Web was largely comprised of blogs and discussion fora. Back then (about a decade ago), sharing was public and if you wanted to share something on the Web with a select group of people, you either password protected your blog, published posts with password access enabled or shared limited content with pre-approved people (limited sharing on Flickr comes to mind).

Facebook and Google+ enable users to share selectively using Facebook Lists or Google+ Circles. You can create lists or circles to suit your sharing preferences and ensure that only the connections you want to share something with, will see it (for the most part). Unfortunately, that level of sophistication can also be accompanied by a degree of complexity in the sharing controls. Both services have options for closed groups or communities in addition to selective sharing at a post level. As a user, it remains your responsibility to explore your privacy controls and make sure that they are configured for your sharing comfort level. You should also bear in mind that whatever you share online could still be made public through a policy change or an exploit so decide for yourself, in advance, what you will never share online and you don’t share that stuff. Good examples of stuff not to share include identity numbers, your home address, where your kids go to school or even your home phone number (it could be cross-referenced with your name to locate your home address in a phone book).

One trend that bothers me is a shift to Twitter for personal sharing. Twitter gives you two options for sharing: publicly or completely privately. I suppose this largely depends on what you are comfortable sharing publicly. Your Twitter profile is public by default and this means everything you tweet is public and anyone can see it if they know where your profile is. The alternative is a private profile where sharing is limited to followers you approve. Twitter doesn’t really have selective sharing capability like Facebook or Google+ and it is the equivalent of trying to have a conversation in a crowded room. You may think you are talking to a select group of people but you potentially have a much larger audience.

Another option worth mentioning is Path which a mobile only social network and which is designed for only your real friends and family. It is a beautiful app and a terrific sharing experience but the challenge, for me, is that very few of my friends and family are using it and that diminishes it value to close to zero. If my close friends and family were using it, it would be a terrific choice. For now, I have set up my Facebook lists to emulate the sharing capability I would have in Path.

Social services like Facebook have been somewhat cavalier with our data but a spate of privacy controversies and increased attention from regulators has persuaded these services to take greater care with our data and our privacy options. Using social media is not a risk free proposition by any means but the social Web gives us the ability to share in ways we just weren’t aware were possible a few years ago. The real cost is vigilance and increased personal responsibility but that is how it should be anyway. After all, it is our data and our lives we are sharing. We should take responsibility for that anyway.

Categories
Blogs and blogging Miscellany

Are blogs still relevant as personal sharing platforms?

This is a repost from my Tumblr blog and was originally published on 11 February 2013

I’ve been thinking about blogs’ relevance again. My Squarespace subscription for my main blog is about to come to an end and as awesome as Squarespace is as a platform, I don’t use that site nearly often enough to justify the $80-something cost to renew it for another year. Particularly when I could set up a WordPress site for almost nothing on a server I already have available to me for hosting. Update: As you can see, I completed the migration to this blog anyway. There are a number of broken links and images after the export from Squarespace and I’ll sort those out in time, probably.

I have my blog archive going back to 2004 when I started blogging and I want to locate that somewhere so I started migrating my blog content yesterday and redirecting my domain to my hosted space. It’s a bit of a process and there are definitely glitches in the migration process. The hassle of the move has brought me back to a few stray thoughts I had about current social services like Google+ and Facebook and about a blog’s relevance as a personal sharing platform.

One of the things I love about using Facebook (and, to a lesser extent primarily because so few friends and family members are using it, Google+) is that it is possible to share selectively with specific groups of friends/connections. That makes Facebook and Google+ really useful. There are times when I just want to share something with friends and family and other times when I am happy to share stuff publicly (even though many of my connections probably wish I wouldn’t). The lists and circles functionalities in Facebook and Google+, respectively, make that really easy.

Blogs don’t really support that sort of selective sharing. You are either sharing publicly (and possibly replying on obscurity for some privacy) or you resort to posting stuff that users with passwords or access to restricted posts can see. Lists and circles are far more dynamic and flexible but the disadvantage of relying on Facebook and Google+ is that we really don’t have all that much control over those platforms and years of contributions and shares could disappear for a number of reasons ranging from a big crash to an exploit to the service provider cutting you off for even more reasons.

At least with your own blog, you can have more control over your content, back it up, move it around in a meaningful format and set up shop elsewhere. Sort of. That said, unless you have your own server in your house in a secure space, the risk of your data disappearing one day exists in varying degrees anyway. My host could take my site down one day. Tumblr could remove this blog and if I haven’t backed my data up, well I would be a bit upset at losing all my stuff.

So, if control is truly an illusion, are blogs still relevant as personal sharing platforms in a digital world which lends itself more to selective and flexible sharing? Is it worth going to the effort of relocating my blog or should I just archive my digital tracks from the last 8 years or so and share in the distributed moment?

Categories
Miscellany

I didn't know I could do this with LinkedIn!

I just noticed this in the iOS app on my iPad and it blows my hair back a little! I didn’t realise I could do this at all. This little capability makes such a big difference to the LinkedIn app’s appeal to me.

If only Google would enable something like this in its app!