Tag Archives: facebook

This is your life

This is either fascinating, useful, or scary, depending on your point of view.

I’m usually logged in to my Google accounts on all of my devices, because I really appreciate the synchronisation of my history, finishing YouTube videos on one device that I started on another, and so forth.

Subconsciously, we all understand that Google therefore knows a lot about us. But if you go to:

https://myactivity.google.com/myactivity

you can see it all laid out before you.

For me, amongst other things, it shows things I’ve searched for, YouTube videos I’ve watched, posts on StackExchange, areas I’ve explored on Google maps, and so on. I generally use Safari, but if I were a more regular Chrome user, there would be a great deal more of my online activity listed here. (If you try this, then switch to ‘Item view’ for a blow-by-blow account.)

This timeline is also searchable, which is very useful for the more forgetful amongst us.

Now, if you subscribe to the ‘Big Companies are Bad’ philosophy, especially in light of recent Facebook news, this would be terrifying, though if you’re of that frame of mind you’d probably not log in to accounts on these services anyway, in which case your record will be less detailed, but you’ll use a lot of benefits too. And Google does offer you plenty of control over what they store, how much ads are personalised, etc. And you can delete your record of past activities.

Wherever you come on the paranoia scale, it is worthwhile and educational, I think, to visit such pages from time to time to develop a clearer understanding of what’s being recorded behind the scenes.

Noel Coward and Facebook

I still find Facebook a bit confusing. Non-intuitive. And I don’t have this problem with other networks. I’m wondering whether this is because I can’t be bothered to spend much time there, so it’s unfamiliar territory, or whether it really is badly designed, or whether I’m just getting old!

I was an early Facebook user and was rather put off by the invitations I would get to sign up for a plethora of pointless apps. “John Smith has just slapped you on the cheek. Click here to add CheekSlap to your profile…” That’s all handled much better now, but I never really got the FB habit.

This is partly because creating blog posts and web sites was already second nature to me by then, and I preferred publishing in a format over which I had more control, and which was more open. Stuff I write here gets found by Google and is accessible to everyone. Stuff in Facebook doesn’t, and isn’t. When I post on my blog, I can notify my FB friends automatically and the post is only one click away. And I can be pretty confident it will still be accessible in decade or two’s time, which is important for me, to the degree that this is a personal diary.

I also started to use Twitter fairly early and my tweets are similarly cross-posted to FB. You can’t conveniently do this the other way around because of Twitter’s 140 char limit. Yes, I suppose you could tweet a link to new FB content, but again, that link would only be of any use to those with FB accounts. Facebook is a closed, walled garden, though admittedly with rather a lot of people inside the walls now! But as Jason Kottke eloquently put it, Facebook is AOL 2.0.

All of this means that I tend to think of FB as a secondary, write-only medium. I actually post quite a bit there, but almost never directly, and I usually only open the site when I get an email notification that a friend has responded. Is this antisocial? People who take from networks and never contribute anything back are sometimes called leeches. What about the other way around?

I prefer to think that I’m just following Noel Coward’s excellent advice about the new medium of his day, television.

Television, he said, is something for appearing on, not for watching.

Well, exactly, dear boy.

Facing the Facebook facts

In the early days of Facebook, I found it rather annoying – there were just too many invitations from people which would have involved installing applications in my account. So I focused on the more streamlined Twitter, and many of my friends seem to have done the same.

But I’m definitely in the minority. Facebook publishes detailed statistics about their users, presumably because they are rightly proud of the numbers. 350M active users, of whom, on any given day, 50% log in, and 10% update their status at least once.

Twitter doesn’t publish any stats, but even the most optimistic estimates suggest they have less than a tenth of these numbers. For all the recent attention, it does seem as if they have a long way to go to be anything like as influential as Facebook, and such graphs as I’ve been able to find suggest that usage has declined over the last six months.

Anyone know of any reliable stats?

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© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser