Netiquette of using Facebook Places

Even if you never use Facebook's geo-tagging feature, be aware: thanks to a new Facebook feature, your "friends'' can now post a map of where you are without your permission.

Not comfortable with having the world know where you are at a given moment? Don't panic. A change of privacy settings can block geo-tagging.

But first, you need to know how it works. The newly released feature, called Facebook Places, uses your cellphone's GPS to let you ``check in'' to a nearby establishment and broadcast where you are to your Facebook connections. (In order to ``check in,'' the person doing the tagging must be using Facebook on a cellphone, but anyone can see the information.)

For example, at work I can ``check in'' to The Miami Herald. My profile then says I'm at The Herald, and it shows a map and description of the company, along with other friends who have been here.

Your friends can also do this on your behalf. Facebook Places lets you ``Tag Friends With You'' -- so I can go in and mark off a ton of co-workers (even ones who are not actually in the building), and it shows up on all their profiles as being here.

But ... it's a big netiquette ``no'' to assume others want their location posted to Facebook (or any other social networking site.) If you're out with friends and want to tag them, you need to first ask if no one minds. Even though Facebook's new feature can be turned off, you can't assume everyone is savvy enough to have done that.

If you are queasy about having your whereabouts telegraphed, it's easy to block people from tagging you.

In Facebook, click Account on the far right, and go to Privacy Settings. In the area under Sharing on Facebook, click the link at the bottom of the list that says Customize Settings. There you can see settings related to Facebook Places, including disabling friends from checking in on your behalf.

If your tweens or teens use Facebook, be aware that they can now use their phone to broadcast exactly when and where they are, which can be dangerous if they don't use privacy settings. There's even a way to create a ``check in'' for your home -- something I strongly discourage, no matter what your age.

Facebook's terms of use say no one under 13 should use the site. But I've spoken to several parents with children much younger than 13 on Facebook, and the children simply lie about their age in the profile. Parents should include Facebook Places in conversations about online safety and sharing information with strangers.

Despite these warnings, the service has some fun benefits. The instant I walk in, I can quickly let my friends know of a great band playing at a restaurant I'm at, or a store with a sale going on.

If this location feature sounds familiar, that's because it's not new. Third-party applications like Foursquare and Gowalla have been posting this type of information on Facebook for awhile now -- but now that it's a feature built into the Facebook application and mobile website, expect people to use this more frequently.

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Big news should be shared personally, not on Facebook

Some news just shouldn't be seen first on Facebook.

Your mom got engaged. Your daughter is moving to another state. Your niece is pregnant.

When I come across stories of people discovering huge news about close family members and friends on Facebook, it shocks me. You might think those examples must be unique cases of someone with poor manners, or an estranged relationship. But they aren't.

I asked my social networks about this topic and some shared eye-opening examples of best friends and close family breaking news -- mostly involving moving and engagement -- in a status message instead of picking up a phone.

To those who are guilty of doing this, your argument could be that Facebook is designed to find out what your friends are up to, and the tool makes it a convenient way to spread news about life changes in a time-crunched world.

I agree that Facebook is a fantastic tool for announcing news to your friends. And I've learned about friends getting engaged or having a baby on there -- but it's never someone who is exceptionally close to me.

Your best friends, parents, siblings and other close relatives should not be treated the same as the other 500 acquaintances on your social network. Posting that news on a status message tells them they are no different than anyone else.

A Twitter user shared a story with me about finding out about her best friend's engagement from a blog post. She said the friendship fell apart after the hurt feelings.

Technology can make us lazy in our communication skills, especially for those hooked on updating Facebook frequently. That said, it's sad for a friendship to be demolished because of a mindless faux pas. If it happened to me, I'd be very hurt, but I'd also let that person know that I would rather not learn about big news that way.

The majority of our time online is spent on social networks. According to Nielsen, social networks take up 22.7 percent of the time spent online, compared to 15.8 percent last year.

Because of that, you can't assume everyone treats social media the same way you do. Many of the examples I heard came from parents of 20-something-year-olds. Younger people have grown up using Facebook and texting as primary communication tools. But we shouldn't let it be the primary tool in every circumstance.

I've also seen drama unfold over news that isn't as big as marriage. One out-of-town user was hit with comments like, ``Why didn't you tell me you were back in Miami?'' after posting a status message about having lunch nearby. Needless to say, it's an awkward moment that could have been avoided with a quick text message to close friends -- or privacy settings to block unwanted people from knowing.

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How to avoid your ex online

Breakups are rough. Especially in the age of social media, which require a whole extra level of separation. Enter, which makes the whole process much easier:

Thanks to @Skydiver for pointing this one out!

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Posting photos of the kids comes with its own netiquette

Technology has made it easier than ever for parents to document and share every cute kid moment on Facebook.

But that doesn't mean every moment should be shared.

I don't have a child, but I've heard of parents going through a few awkward situations when it comes to posting photos of children. So I spoke to several parents who are active on social networks, and there seems to be a few key issues everyone agrees on.

Keep the bathtub and potty training photos to yourself and the grandparents. Naked photos are too personal to share on Facebook. If you depend on Facebook as the main way to share photos with family, then use privacy settings to limit access just to a select few family members.

Take caution when posting a photo of kids that aren't your own. I've come across a few parents that don't want their children on Facebook at all, so be sure to ask a parent if it's OK to post the pic on Facebook before doing so.

And if you are one of those parents who is worried about what is shared on Facebook, kindly let your friends and family know ahead of time to avoid an awkward situation later.

Out of respect for safety, don't tag a child's full name on Facebook. Some parents told me they never put their own kid's real names online. Some just use an initial when mentioning a child in a status message or in a photo.

If you make your photos public to people outside of immediate family, avoid revealing where the child goes to school. If the child wears a uniform, be sure to crop out the uniform logo in the picture. It's a good way to keep safe from predators. (It's also a policy that the Belen Jesuit Preparatory School in Miami sends home to parents.)

Since most teenagers think their parent is embarrassing, a few parents of tweens and teens gave me some advice on how to avoid being annoying online. Some ask their kid if they can post a photo to Facebook before doing so. Others will post regardless, but let their teen do the tagging.

It used to be that mom and dad got out the dusty photo album to show off baby pictures. Now, a whole generation of kids are growing up in an age where the world sees their baby photos before they can talk. So for those that can't wait to show every adorable moment, just ask yourself, ``Would I be embarrassed if this was posted about me?''

As momblogger Karen Ziemkowski posted on her Twitter account, ``your kid is a person, not a pet.'' She keeps in mind that anything she posts will be around when her son grows up.

So that naked photo of your kid covered in poop . . . yeah, not something that should be shared with the world.

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World Cup and Social Media, part II

Ok, so we all know the World Cup has crashed Twitter, with the fail whale appearing with even greater frequency than bad calls by World Cup refs.

But how's Facebook managing it all?

The New York Times has a nifty graphic today detailing which players are getting the most mentions on Facebook every day:


Is this journalism that will change the world? No, but that doesn't stop me from loving it any less. I think it's perfect for the Friday before a holiday weekend.

Happy Fourth!

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Think your work Blackberry is private?

Today's Poked column was inspired by a coworker, who came to me with a query I suspect is fairly common, about privacy and our work phones. It made me think that many folks have spent quite a bit of time complaining about Facebook and its privacy issues, but it also made me wonder if they've taken the time to look at another privacy issue: what's being monitored on our work equipment like Blackberries.

It also made me realize that I haven't really read our company's IT policy? It's 13 pages long, single-spaced. If I had read past the first few paragraphs, I would have come across a very clearly stated policy -- on page two -- that details how I have absolutely no "reasonable expectation'' of privacy or confidentiality when I'm using company equipment like a desktop computer or Blackberry, even if I'm using my personal e-mail account.

I wonder if Sgt. Quon of the Ontario, Calif., police department read his company policy before he signed it. His was fairly similar to mine. Still, Quon argued that when the police department read personal text messages he sent from his company-issued pager, they were violating his constitutional right against unreasonable search.

Quon took the case to the Supreme Court, which ruled against him.

The court took care to say that it was a narrow decision, cautioning that it should not be used to establish "far-reaching premises that define the existence, and extent, of privacy expectations of employees using employer-provided communication devices.''

Journalists, like many professionals, practically live on their Blackberries. (Well, not me -- but I do live on my Droid, although I own it.) They have their work e-mail accounts, but also personal e-mail, Facebook and instant messaging, at least, installed on their smartphones.

I've always been skeptical about anything I do on a work computer or device. But I'm just one camp, says employment lawyer Chris Parlo. Parlo, who is based in New York with Morgan Lewis, says there's a whole other group of people out there, like my co-worker, and like Quon, who have different expectations of privacy.

Parlo thinks the Supreme Court decision has put companies and workers on notice.

Employers need to make sure they have policies that are well-known, clear and broad, so it captures all devices, situations and scenarios in which this might be an issue.

Workers need to have a reality check, too, he says. "I think the average worker has to understand that they're not free to do whatever they want, and should pay careful attention to what the employer has told them about what restrictions of personal use are on workplace devices.''

Have you read your company's IT policy? Did it made you switch from one camp to the other?

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Five guidelines to avoid looking like a dweeb on Foursquare, Gowalla

With any new social media tool comes new social media user gaffes.

Location-based social media applications like Foursquare and Gowalla are starting to become mainstream, and it's clear these communities can use some netiquette.

Starbucks foursquare Though each functions a little differently, the idea is much the same, a high-techy personalized version of "Carmen Sandiego." When you arrive at a location, you use the mobile phone applications to "check in," letting the world know: "Hey, look where I am!'' Some marketers are using these oversharing games to their advantage and offering discounts to frequent visitors. (Starbucks does this, and I included a screen grab of their reward here as an example.)

You can also friend your favorite users to see where they are. And you can post your check-in announcements on Facebook and Twitter.

SchoolnightSo why do this? Well, you can collect points and awards with the more you do, and compare  them with other users. For example, you'll get a  School Night award badge on Foursquare if you checked into a place after 3 a.m. on a school night. Or you can get aLuchalibre Lucha Libre pin on Gowalla after checking in at 10 Mexican food spots. (For now, at least, the points won't get you anything more than recognition.)

That said, if you want to get into the game, I recommended you play nice and follow these five basic guidelines to avoid looking like a twit:

1. We know you go to work every day, and you're awesome for doing so. But please spare the world and avoid publishing these mundane check-ins announcements to your Facebook and Twitter feeds. You can get the Foursquare or Gowalla points even if you don't share it with Facebook and Twitter. It adds pointless noise to your profile feeds.

2. You can also spare the world from announcing on Facebook and Twitter every time you visit some fast food drive-through or grocery mart. Unless there's something special going on at the time, you look pretty lame bragging to the world that you're picking up some milk or getting a Crunchwrap Supreme.

3. It's a bad idea to create a check-in location for your home or your friend's home. Sure, it's a cheap way to get more points. But it lets everyone in the neighborhood see what user lives there. (And when that user isn't home.) If you regret making a check-in for your home, contact the support team to remove it for you.

4. When you're one of the first users in an area, sometimes you have to create the profile of the place. Please, for the sake of being a good community player, take the time to spell the place correctly and use proper punctuation. I've seen way too many instances where names are spelled wrong, so people create doubles and clutter the space.

5. Speaking of clutter, don't create check-in locations for every room of your building. A church near my home even has a check-in for every men's and women's bathroom. Aside from the gross oversharing, it crowds out other places that are near me. If my app doesn't show the CVS near me because you would rather let the world know you are mayor of the bathroom, I think it's time to put down the phone.

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Improve your Facebook page with custom tabs

The Poked column took a hiatus from print today due to the holiday week, but here's last week's column on how to spruce up the tabs on your Facebook page, in case you missed it:

Last week, Facebook created, and then quickly recalled, a restriction on pages that customize their opening page, known as a landing tab. Businesses use this so that first-time visitors see a welcome graphic rather than landing in the middle of a "comment'' page, or Wall.

During the one-day change, page administrators could set up an opening tab only if they had at least 10,000 fans -- now called 'likes' -- or had spent at least $25,000 in advertising on Facebook.

After an uproar from the business community, Facebook opened the customization back up to everyone and said in a statement: "We apologize for the inconvenience this caused to our developer and business community. We are re-investigating the situation, and will not make any further changes without first giving our community standard notice and lead-time.''

For small businesses that don't have landing tabs, it's time to set one up. You can see some examples of this on company pages such as Victoria's Secret PINK, Dunkin' Donuts, Skittles, Dove and Macy's.

If you are an admin for a page, here are a few free tools you can use to create a custom tab. (But note that once someone marks that they like the page, they will see the Wall on the first visit):

  • To create a custom tab, you'll need the Static FBML application. Search Facebook for Static FBML, and then click to add the app. Go back to your fan page, click on ``edit page,'' and that's where you can customize the Static FBML with some html. When done, add the custom tab by hitting the ``+'' tab.
  • To change what tab shows up first, admins can click on ``Settings,'' directly under the "Share" button on the Wall page. A drop-down menu allows you to choose the default landing tab for non-fans.
  • On Facebook, you can find applications that help put a store on your page. Check out the Wishpot store app or My Merch Store by Zazzle. Pages like The Onion and have used iFanStore by Milyoni -- good-looking, but not free. Prices for Milyoni to build a store start at about $1,000.

If you don't want your store to be your opening page, be sure to put a box promoting the store on the Wall page. Regan Poston, vice president of customer success at Milyoni, said the box promoting the store on the Wall gets four times as many clicks as the Shop tab does.

It's worth the time to welcome your fans with more than just a messy wall. And you might as well learn now ... before Facebook changes its mind again.

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FB unveils new privacy controls

As promised, Facebook just rolled out the new privacy controls that it's been promising in response to the uproar over changes in its privacy settings.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who has come under a lot of personal fire for the privacy issues, wrote the blog posting explaining what they're doing. In the post, Zuckerberg wrote the new privacy controls focus on three things: "a single control for your content, more powerful controls for your basic information and an easy control to turn off all applications."

They've also posted a new privacy guide for how it all works.

I'll start playing around with everything, but in the meantime, what are you thinking about the changes? To get started, here's a view of the new privacy guide:


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FB responds to privacy issues

Everyone should be well aware by now of the issues people are having with Facebook's privacy.

Facebook_Badge_02_24_2009 Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is addressing the issues directly with an editorial in the Washington Post, where he writes, that despite its evolution from a "dorm-room project" to a site used by millions of people, that Facebook still is based on these five principles:

  • You have control over how your information is shared.                                                                                                                                      We do not share your personal information with people or services you don't want
  • We do not give advertisers access to your personal information.
  • We do not and never will sell any of your information to anyone.
  • We will always keep Facebook a free service for everyone.
He adds that additional privacy contols that are easy to use will be available in the "coming weeks".

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