Monday, 14 February 2011

Online Reputation - Some initial thoughts

Online reputation and digital identity are areas I am particularly interested in, and given the range of applications that we are now signed up to, and the different connections we are making I am even more keen to keep on top of this. Back in the early days of WWW and search engines, I can remember that it seemed that only ‘‘important’ people could be found on the web - ‘he’s on the Internet - must be famous!’. I can remember searching for my name a few years ago, and the only references I found were relating to a question I had asked in an information discussion group, and a report on the activities of a village group in which I was involved. There is not a lot more to add to that nowadays, except that my presence on Facebook and LinkedIn is announced, and my tweets are listed, something that I find a little disturbing (note to self - can I set privacy so that these do not appear in a Google search?) This unease comes from seeing something I have written reproduced outside of its context; and although this particular content is fairly innocuous my concern is that this might not always be the case. Contextual integrity is so important - you might want to talk to someone in one format but not another, reference Google Buzz example discussed by Danah Boyd (2010). Also, the fact that content is viewable by everyone does not mean that the producer intends it to be taken from context, reproduced, mashed up, used for deep indexing links and generally altered, hence my concern regarding the understanding of Facebook’s ‘everyone’ setting.

Establishing digital identity
The increasing popularity of social media and the embracing of it by the library community means that it is important for me to develop and nurture an online persona for my role at DMU, what ever that might be in the future. I believe it is relevant to all areas of library activity, and one needs to be ‘out there’ and ready to exploit it to its full potential, whether involved in back room technical services, or on the front line communicating with students in their preferred media. For my freelancing work it is important to portray the right skills background and experience, and I know LinkedIn is a resource extensively used in this area. It is useful to maintain a professional and relevant image, and to ensure that should anyone wish to dig deeper, they will find nothing of concern - one’s brand’ must remain intact and record unblemished. It is important to use digital identity to find ways of attracting commissions, and encouraging new business. With this in mind I really need to address the issue of having multiple professional identities in one profile, whilst attempting to demonstrate 100 per cent commitment to each, particularly as many of my fellow freelancers are full-time.

The representative body for my freelance work operates a service whereby all our contact details are registered on their website freely searchable by anyone, so legitimate people can find us, view our specialisms, check whether location is convenient and make immediate contact. I have been uncomfortable with this, but am not sure how to strike a balance between being easy to find and having my details exposed to potential criminals. I have now removed my address but it still comes up in a Google search.

Developing digital identity.
For the Task 1 activities, I joined two Diigo groups relevant to my work, and am finding some useful material from these. I can see that as I begin to contribute my own material, my own profile will be enhanced. The saved search hashtags in Twitter have been useful to explore; I have found some relevant people for the areas of activity I am interested in, am following a prominent author in one of those fields and now find she is following me. I tried #libraries, but found that it is too broad with lots of US material which I am not interested in. It would be helpful to narrow this down in some way to focus on specific topics, but I cannot see a way of doing this. I already have a LinkedIn account, although not very active as yet, I do intend to develop this.

With regards to privacy policies, I really don’t worry perhaps as much as I should when it comes to signing up with individual sites. Much of our personal data is easily retrievable anyway, through Phone Book, the electoral register, and pay for services such as credit rating agencies. As far as I am aware there is nothing terrible about me that I am aware of lurking in anyone’s files or photographs, but what I do find disturbing is how much flexibility and power all the sites have in using our data. I am uncomfortable with the way in which data can be shared between applications and sites, and suddenly no longer be subject to the privacy protection one thought one had. Facebook is a prime example (Opsahl 2010, Butcher 2007 etc.) and I think it is appalling that it can change the policies signed up for as and when it suits to make data more useful and valuable to it.

BOYD, DANAH (2010) Making Sense of Privacy and Publicity. SXSW Austin, Texas
BUTCHER, M. (2007) Eight reasons why Facebook owns your ass. Mbites. Weblog [Online] 2nd Aug. Available from [Accessed 14/02/11]
OPSAHL, K. (2010) Six things you need to know about Facebook connections. Electronic Frontier Foundation. Weblog [Online] 4th May. Available from: [Accessed 14/02/11]
Facebook Privacy Policy

Monday, 7 February 2011

Thoughts on Dave White's Visitors and Residents using Twitter and Facebook


Dave White in his 'Visitors & Residents' video describes Twitter as a resident platform, and as such, it is necessary to really use and interact within it to fully get it and benefit from it, as also expressed in Andy Powell's blog 'Twitter for Idiots' which he refers to. (Interesting to read Powell's view regarding the CILIP 'Twitter for Librarians' course! - yes, you do need to use it to understand it in the same way you need to drive a car to understand how to drive a car, but it is sometimes helpful for people to completely focus by setting a specific date and time - if you have spent the money on a training course and travel - you will devote time and energy to doing it.)

Visitors on Twitter can easily search on a particular topic, review the tweets and then go off again, having wasted little time; they are goal-orientated and it is quick and easy to use. They will have left no footprint, will not have exposed their interest, and will not have had to wade through the banalities to get to what they want to know. However the experience will be rather like using a search engine, there is no interaction going on, so they will miss out on any future comments, any developing stories, any retweets or continuing discussion. As they see Twitter as no more than a tool for a particular task, they will not be contributing or discussing, nor be part of a community, nor enriching their digital identity. Others who share their interests will not recognise them or value them in any way.
Residents, however, will reap the benefits of high visibility. They are more likely to be contacted with interesting ideas and suggestions, to be followed by relevant people who they in turn can follow, they can deal with negative comments quickly and immediately, respond to queries, give feedback. On the other hand, in order to maintain their 'brand' or identity, they do have to 'keep feeding that machine', keep updating. Not only is this time consuming, but when they run out of anything of substance to say, their comments can become banal.

In some ways Facebook can be easier than Twitter for visitors - they can see what others are doing and saying, where they are, what interests they have, look at photos, without having to contribute, (although generally will need to get as far as adding and being accepted by friends to see this information). The drawbacks are that as non-contributing, they are unlikely to be approached with messages or updates relevant to them - by not giving they get nothing back.
For residents, it is easy to maintain visibility in a number of ways, updating status, uploading photos, commenting on others updates, joining new groups, and finding new friends. All this is good for networking, locating business needs, promotion and marketing. The drawbacks include the erosion of privacy the more that is given, the time-consuming nature of updating, and the exposure to irrelevant or unwanted attention.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Beginning module 2 and social media culture

At the start of this second module of our course for in web technologies and practice, I am now beginning my blog, to try and capture developing thoughts and ideas as we go along, and to attempt to reflect upon what I find out about implementing web tools.

This is not something I find easy to do publicly! and It feels very different from blogging in, where we knew we had the privacy of a password protected environment. However I appreciate it is an essential part of the learning process, although I am assuming the only people reading it will be my tutors and course colleagues.

Our first module gave us (in my case a much-needed) introduction to web2 tools, and an opportunity to explore them and to find out about the range and purposes of the available technology.

For the second module I was really pleased to see the structure and layout of the module on Blackboard for the forthcoming weeks, so I have an idea of what to expect, and can see how everything fits in to the overall topic. Having said that, there is soooooo much to do! and so many places to visit, I really am going to find it hard to keep on top of it all. Whether I prefer a more linear approach or whether that is just what I am used to I don’t know, but in order to deal with all this I have already had to set out my own checklists to try and manage the tasks and reading in a way I can deal with, i.e. ticking them off one by one!

I would be interested to know how my colleagues are finding this.

With regards to the background reading relating to social media, I particularly liked some of the ways the authors expressed the impact social media can have, for example as quoted by Lon Safko in The Social Media Bible (2010) ‘An angry customer will tell up to 20 other people about a bad experience...,’ that’s face to face. With the use of social media like blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, those 20 people can quickly become 20,000 or even 200,000.’ Basically a message can reach huge numbers of people very, very quickly, with subsequent negative or positive effects. News can go global in a matter of minutes, and social media and its potential is becoming more and more popular. And everyone can join in and contribute. The downside of this is the loss in privacy, if you want to participate you have to have some sort of online identity, and that means giving up personal information. Web 2 technology is all about creating, developing and using that digital identity, not protecting it.

I was interested in Erik Qualman’s maxim in his book 'Socialnomics' (2011) that ‘investing time in social media actually makes you more productive’- hard to tell when you are spending hours on a computer, many of them not very productive - but then no pain no gain, guess you have to go through these processes to learn and familiarise yourself with the digital world. And its interesting to think of social media as competition to Google and other search engines, given the additional search opportunities there are. More potential, more opportunities, but so much more to manage.