Danah Boyd: Facebook Users are the “Proverbial Boiling Frog”

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Internet | Posted on 30-04-2010


Christmas Day last year was the first time in history that Facebook attracted more traffic than Google. The Facebook bandwagon just keeps growing, but at the same time its biggest threat is looming on the horizon: privacy.

I recently blogged some Facebook privacy tips as I know that most users really don’t understand just how public their data is. As a marketer I’m a huge proponent of the benefits Facebook can bring for brands, as an individual I’m a big fan of having access to all my friends around the globe, but as a citizen I’m increasingly concerned about Facebook’s blase attitude to privacy.

Could privacy issues eventually kill the Goose laying the Golden Eggs? We’ll see… but in the meantime I found myself nodding my head in agreement as I read Danah Boyd’s typically brilliant keynote at WWW2010 ‘Privacy and Publicity in the Context of Big Data

The full transcript is absolutely worth a read, and I’ve pulled out some key sections on Facebook here to give you a flavor:

When Facebook first launched in 2004, it started as a niche social network site that was only accessible to those privileged enough to have a Harvard.edu email address.  As it spread to other universities, it built its reputation on being a closed system.  People trusted the service because they felt it provided boundaries that helped people navigate social norms. As it grew, it was interpreted as the anti-MySpace.  While MySpace was all about publicly accessible content, Facebook was closed and intimate, a more genuine “place for friends.”  As I roamed the United States interviewing teens and others, I was continuously told that Facebook was more private.  For some, that was the precise reason that they loved the site.

First impressions matter and people will go to great lengths to twist any new information that they receive to fit their first impression rather than trying to alter it.  To this day, many average people still associate Facebook with privacy. They believe that they understand how their information flows on Facebook and believe that they understand the tools that allow them to control what is going on.  Unfortunately, their confidence obscures the fact that most don’t actually understand the privacy settings or what they mean.

During its tenure, Facebook has made a series of moves that have complicated people’s understanding of context, resulting in numerous outpourings of frustration over privacy.

Facebook is highly incentivized to encourage people to make their data more publicly accessible.  But most people would not opt-in to such a change if they understood what was happening. As a result, Facebook’s initial defaults were viewed as deceptive by regulators in Canada and Europe.  I interviewed people about their settings.  Most had no idea that there was a change.  I asked them to describe what their privacy settings were and then asked them to look at them with me; I was depressed to learn that these never matched.  (Notably, everyone that I talked to changed their settings to more private once they saw what their settings did.)

Facebook has slowly dismantled the protective walls that made users trust Facebook.  Going public is not inherently bad – there are plenty of websites out there where people are even more publicly accessible by default.  But Facebook started out one way and is slowly changed, leaving users either clueless or confused or outright screwed.  This is fundamentally how contexts get changed in ways that make people’s lives really complicated.  Facebook users are the proverbial boiling frog – they jumped in when the water was cold but the water has slowly been heating up and some users are getting cooked.

Social Plugins and Instant Personalizer are more like Beacon than like News Feed. It’s not shoved in people’s faces; they don’t understand what’s happening; they don’t know how to adjust. When Facebook makes a change that’s in people’s faces, they react extremely negatively.  When they make a change that’s not as visible, people don’t understand what’s happening until it’s too late. That’s a dangerous cycle to get into, especially when you think of all of the third parties who are engaged in exposing people without them realizing it.

New Reading: Switch, Rework & Politico

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business | Posted on 29-04-2010


Just thought I’d take a minute to share some blurbs on my latest reading material: Switch, Rework and the Politico Playbook email.

Current reading: 'Switch' & 'Rework'

Switch – Dan and Chip Heath

I was recommended Switch by a smart mate and as soon as I read the blurb it reminded me of the best presentation I saw at SXSW by Dan Arialy (you can watch a TED video of that superb talk here) – these two forces combined made it a must by. From the Author’s site:

Why is it so hard to make lasting changes in our companies, in our communities, and in our own lives?

The primary obstacle is a conflict that’s built into our brains, say Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the critically acclaimed bestseller Made to Stick. Psychologists have discovered that our minds are ruled by two different systems—the rational mind and the emotional mind—that compete for control. The rational mind wants a great beach body; the emotional mind wants that Oreo cookie. The rational mind wants to change something at work; the emotional mind loves the comfort of the existing routine. This tension can doom a change effort—but if it is overcome, change can come quickly.

I’m intrigued at how we, as communicators, can help guide people towards being/doing and performing better… I’m hoping this book will help spark my thinking.

Rework – 37 Signals

I recently read Getting Real by the 37 Signals team at the prompting of my client at Kohler, John Engberg. I loved that read and its focus on simplicity and results above flash and features. I’m anticipating Rework will spread its wings beyond the web application focus of Getting Real and provide even more value to my thinking and day-to-day approach to work.

Plus, with reviews like this from Mark Cuban it’s hard to ignore:
“If given a choice between investing in someone who has read REWORK or has an MBA,
I’m investing in REWORK every time. A must read for every entrepreneur.”

Politico Playbook Email

I became aware of the Politico daily email via a New York Times magazine yarn this week The Man The White House Wakes Up To. One week into an email subscription and I’m a big fan. It’s the perfect read for my short bus ride – short and snappy pars about the big issues in Washington each day, a little inside baseball and daily links to interesting stories in the news. Worth a look!

Bonus Link – The Data-Driven Life

And since you can’t enjoy the first two books online (how old-fashioned) if you’re dying for a good read then take 10 minutes to read the NY Times piece ‘A Data-Driven Life‘ that looks at the emerging field of personal data collection on daily habits and what this new world of data could mean in aggregate.

Enjoy! I’ll do my best to report back some of the key thoughts I pick up from Switch and Rework as I work my way through them.

Powerpoint: Where Good Ideas Go To Die

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business | Posted on 27-04-2010


Oh Powerpoint, how I despise you. My preferred method of presentation is frequently standing up with an open web browser, at the same time I’ve dealt with many a large corporation that can only make a decision if it’s expressed in pretty bullet-points.

The NY Times had a great yarn today on how the Powerpoint plague has spread from corporate marketers and the board room into the ranks of the US Military. Some choice quotes below, and first off this PPT diagram that General Stanley McChrystal jokes holds the secret to success in Afghanistan… if anyone can decipher it:

“PowerPoint makes us stupid,” Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps, the Joint Forces commander, said this month at a military conference in North Carolina. (He spoke without PowerPoint.) Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who banned PowerPoint presentations when he led the successful effort to secure the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar in 2005, followed up at the same conference by likening PowerPoint to an internal threat.

“It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control,” General McMaster said in a telephone interview afterward. “Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”

Commanders say that the slides impart less information than a five-page paper can hold, and that they relieve the briefer of the need to polish writing to convey an analytic, persuasive point. Imagine lawyers presenting arguments before the Supreme Court in slides instead of legal briefs.

It’s not all negative though, the army dudes do point out one valuable use of confusing PPTs:

Senior officers say the program does come in handy when the goal is not imparting information, as in briefings for reporters.

The news media sessions often last 25 minutes, with 5 minutes left at the end for questions from anyone still awake. Those types of PowerPoint presentations, Dr. Hammes said, are known as “hypnotizing chickens.”

And a bonus image to show just how much confusion attempted simplification can drive – Kim Beazley’s infamous Knowledge-Nation ‘Noodle Graph’ from the 2001 Australian election:

Friday Video: Water Creativity from Solidarité International

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Life | Posted on 23-04-2010


The good folk over at AgencySpy pointed me to this great video from Solidarité International - a creative aquascript installation calling attention to the 8 million people each year killed by unsafe drinking water.

Solidarités International: Water talks from La Boite Concept on Vimeo.

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Facebook Privacy How To

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Internet | Posted on 22-04-2010


Big announcements from Facebook this week… and even more privacy concerns. Do you have any idea how public or private your account and data is?

I was shocked by how open my account was, and how much access I was giving to third parties. While you’ll never have real privacy with Facebook (or anywhere on the Internet) here’s a few tips on how to keep your data a little more secured. I’ve gone through each of the below (and I’d class myself as a very savvy Facebook user) and I was still wide open.

As ReadWriteWeb strongly put it:

Doing this won’t eliminate risk entirely – nothing can do that – but it’s a good first step in reducing risk. However, as long as you have a Facebook account, your data won’t be private. If true privacy is really a concern for you, it may be time to find that account delete button instead. (Hint: it’s under “Account Settings.”)

AllFacebook: 10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know

Everyday I receive an email from somebody about how their account was hacked, how a friend tagged them in the photo and they want a way to avoid it, as well as a number of other complications related to their privacy on Facebook.  I figured that many people would benefit from a thorough overview on how to protect your privacy on Facebook.

Bryce Tom: Control What Your Friends Can Share About You on Facebook

With all this talk about Facebook’s social graph, I decided to take a look under the hood to see what all the privacy discussions were about… Holy crap! The fact that my friends would be able to share this much info about me to 3rd party vendors is a bit insane. To change your settings, log in to your FB account, and click here.

ReadWriteWeb: How To Delete Facebook Applications and Why You Should

The new policy, however, brings to light something that your average Facebook user may not have ever known at all: Facebook applications access your personal data.

To the end user, these changes may sound overwhelming and even scary. But there is something very easy everyone can do to minimize their risk and that’s delete the Facebook applications you no longer use.

The process of doing so is incredibly simple.

After signing into Facebook, do the following:

  1. Click on “Account” at the top-right of the screen.
  2. Click “Application Settings”
  3. Change the “Show” drop-down box to “Authorized.” This will show all the applications you’ve ever given permission to.
  4. In the resulting list, click the “X” button on the far right next to each app you want to remove to delete it.
  5. On the pop-up box that appears, click “Remove” then click “Okay” on the next box confirming the app was deleted.

Repeat this process to remove all the apps you no longer use on a regular basis.

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12 Principles of Success from Richard Edelman

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business | Posted on 21-04-2010


I really enjoyed this blog post from Richard Edelman on his 12 principles of success – as founder and CEO of the world’s largest independent PR agency he’s well worth listening too.

All 12 over on his blog, a selection of my favorites here:

Loose Rein—Hire world-class senior people. Give them plenty of latitude to decide on strategy, acquisitions and executive appointments. Hold them accountable for results. Have robust discussions about big issues, not small ones. Avoid pitched battles by seeking a middle ground.

Encourage Risk-Taking, Not Risky Behavior—Advance the company by promoting entrepreneurial behavior at all levels of the company. Learn from experiments in the field. But have zero tolerance for any conduct that will undermine the reputation of the firm.

Network—I try to have a breakfast or lunch every day with a reporter, a non-profit leader, a new business prospect or lawyer/banker referral source. This process keeps me sharp and current.

Know When to Say When—I work 10-11 hours a day. I turn off my Blackberry at 9 pm. I read books. I work out five or six days a week. On weekends, I trundle around my home in Long Island, carrying large bags of mulch for my gardener wife. Workaholic is not in my DNA.

Stay humble. I take the subway around New York City (faster and cheaper). I drive a Ford Taurus Station Wagon. I buy my shoes and shirts on sale after Christmas.

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NYC Event: Social Media & Democracy

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Australia, Current Affairs, Internet | Posted on 20-04-2010


I’m heading to an interesting event put on by the Aussie consulate in NYC tomorrow night, Social Media and Democracy: The New Era of the Citizen Elect (who knew the editor of the WSJ is an Aussie?)

Let me know if you’re in NYC and want to tag along – and yes, I’ll be sure to live-tweet it and post some follow up thoughts here.

From the Advance site:

Victorians Abroad and Advance invite you to Social Media & Democracy: The New Era of the Citizen Elect at 6pm on Wednesday 21 April.

Join leading Victorian, Robert Thomson (Editor-in-Chief, Wall Street Journal) and a thought-provoking panel moderated by Evan Ratliff (Wired) for an eye-opening look at our digital future.

*What is the future of the new era of the ‘citizen elect’?
*What tools can help create a healthier democracy and engender ideas?

*What can the Government of Victoria learn about citizen engagement as it heads into an election year?

*Opportunities, pitfalls and strategies for this new form of digital collective action.
Join us for a behind the scenes look by key Australians and Americans who are leading this exciting new era of governing through social media.

Keynote speaker:

Robert Thomson

Editor-in-Chief, Wall Street Journal


Andrew Rasiej

Founder, Personal Democracy Forum

Vice President of Communications, NARAL Pro-Choice New York / National Institute for Reproductive Health

With questions moderated by:
Evan Ratliff
, contributing editor, Wired magazine and writer for The New Yorker, New York Times, Sunday Magazine, Men’s Journal.

Wednesday 21 April, 2010

6.00pm to 9.00pm


Level 50, 55 Water Street

New York, NY  10041

Talking Transparency with the University of Oregon

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Internet, Marketing | Posted on 19-04-2010


Last week I did a guest lecture on transparency with my good friend Kelli Matthew’s J412 class at the University of Oregon (via skype – I wish I’d been out there in person!).

Kelli’s students are a bright bunch, so I’ll mainly highlight their thoughts here as they live-tweeted the lecture. I joined them to talk about astroturfing and some other issues as I’m quoted in their course text, Shel Holtz and John Haven’s excellent Tactical Transparency.

My speaking notes were brief and included the examples below along with a look at WOMMA’s code of ethics and Honesty ROI.


Tweets From The Students

Kelli told me her students were a bright bunch and they didn’t disappoint. Here are a selection of their best tweets from the lecture that should give a flavor of the conversation.

Thanks again for being a great audience J412!

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The World Would Be Better If Everyone Watched This Video

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Life | Posted on 16-04-2010


Stealing the headline and content of this post from Gizmodo as this video is so good it is worth sharing widely.

A big hat tip to my kiwi mate Sam Weston for pointing me to this via his always interesting Google Reader shares.


If every person on our blue Earth watched this video, the world would be a much better place. At least for a few minutes. Listen closely to Carl Sagan’s words till the end. It won’t fail to get you teary.

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Never Use a Large Word When a Diminutive One Will Suffice

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Humour, Life | Posted on 15-04-2010


Spotted at Milwaukee Airport last night as I returned to NYC – a ‘recombobulation area’, just through the security gates.

If, like me, you feel thoroughly discombobulated after stumbling through airport security, I’m sure you’ll be relieved to know that this recombobulation area is available for you to recombobulate like you’ve never recombobulated before, and then, thankfully, board your flight fully combulated.

Thank you General Mitchell Airport.

Milwaukee Airport has a Recombobulation Area. Awesome.

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