Facebook

What is Facebook?

At first glance, maybe even at the second or third look, Facebook may seem deceptively simple. It’s often called a social utility or social networking site, one of many that allows users to blog, IM, voice chat, share information, files, photos and videos, music, and more. O.K., so what’s the big deal? A lot of websites do these things, some would argue that different sites do each of these things better than Facebook does.

The difference is that Facebook is not just a website, it’s a platform made up of many networks and applications. The platform capability has allowed third party developers to create nearly 12,000 different applications that you can add to your Facebook profile or page. These applications span the gamut from fun (graffiti walls, SpeedDating) or frivolous (what rainbow color are you), to study tools (theclassconnection) and professional networking (Professional Profile). Whether you are interested in instant messaging, Twitter, photo slide shows, music sharing or promoting your workplace, you don’t have to manage a number of different websites – you can do them all from Facebook.

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Facebook connects users to groups with similiar interests, such as librarians, or to networks – by locality, organization, schools or workplace. Once you have a profile, you can find friends, join groups and networks. As you add more friends, groups and networks, more information, events and news will be delivered or “pushed” to you.

Viewing the details of your profile is restricted to users from the same networks or confirmed friends. You have a lot of control over who can see what information about you. You can also determine how information about you shows up in searches.

faces5Even though you have a great deal of control over who can view your information, remember the cardinal rule of posting anything on the web: don’t post anything that you don’t want the whole world to see. Employers, colleges and law enforcement have used Facebook as a means to gather information and, at times, institute sanctions based on content a user has posted on Facebook. According to an October, 2007 survey by CareerBuilder.com, 1 in 4 employers use the internet to conduct background searches on potential employees, and 1 in 10 search social networking sites such as Facebook and My Space. Some things that have torpedoed job candidates are bad-mouthing a previous employer, posting information about drinking or drug use, and having an unprofessional screen name.

And, while Facebook has become wildly popular, it has also generated a fair share of criticism – more on this below.

Brief History

In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg and a few buddies started Facebook for Harvard students as a way to communicate. Later it expanded to any college student. Now anyone with an email address anyone can visit Facebook, create a profile, join groups and make friends. After myspace.com, Facebook is the most visited website in the world. It has approximately 60 milion users, with over 2 million new users each week. The fastest growing demographic is 25+. Over 60 million photos are uploaded each week. Earlier this year, Viacom made a bid of over $750 million to buy Facebook; in September, Yahoo made an offer of nearly $1 billion dollars. Both offers were rejected. In September, 2007, Microsoft bought a 1.6% share of Facebook, as the exclusive seller of banner ads, but the owners are presently vowing to keep Facebook independent.

Pages and Profiles

Initially, Facebook was designed soley for individual profiles. People then began using individual profiles to set up accounts for organizations or workplaces. Facebook stripped this profiles from their site in an effort to ensure that every profile was legitimate and belonged to a real person.

In November of this year, Facebook added “pages” which are basically profiles that specifically represent a business, organization, musical group or author. There is a category specifically for libraries.

Even though pages are only two months old, 353 libraries have already created Facebook pages (including KRL). Do a search on libraries and you’ll also find over 500 people and over 500 groups.

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Controversies:

While Facebook created an enormous amount of positive buzz over the past year, several recent aspects of FB have recently created a considerable amount of controversy and concern, on the part of users and privacy watchdogs. Two of these are the Beacon program and the difficult of deleting a Facebook account. (Another is the “News” feature*** – see the Time magazine article at the end of this page for more info on this).

Beacon

Here are excerpts from a PC world article dated 11.30.07:

Beacon is a major part of the Facebook Ads platform that Facebook introduced with much fanfare several weeks ago. Beacon tracks certain activities of Facebook users on more than 40 participating Web sites, including those of Blockbuster and Fandango, and reports those activities to the users’ set of Facebook friends, unless told not to do so…..Off-Facebook activities that can be broadcast to one’s Facebook friends include purchasing a product, signing up for a service and including an item on a wish list.

On Dec. 5th, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg apologized. “We’ve made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we’ve made even more with how we’ve handled them. We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it.” Facebook added a global opt-out option for Beacon and stated that any data that they receive from 3rd party sites is deleted from their servers (ReadWriteWeb).

Deleting an Account

Another major controversy regarding Facebook is the hoops users must go through to delete their profile. Here’s an excerpt from the Daily Koz:

(It is) impossible to find instructions on how to cancel. Searching the help system for “cancel account” or “delete account” only shows instructions for “deactivating” your account. Deactivation is not deletion – it merely puts your account in limbo and allows you to restore it at a later date……

Ultimately, deleting an account requires the user to send an email to Facebook after deleting the content on their page. Unlike profiles, Facebook pages can be deleted with a single click.

And, for a touch of irony, there’s even a Facebook group about how to delete your Facebook account.

All-in-All:

You can’t really get a feel for what Facebook is and does by just visiting the site. The best way to learn about Facebook is to create a profile, just start looking around and clicking on things. No. Really. Try it. We’ll be your friends. All of us. Look for us: Robert Christensen, Hannah Caitlin Greer, Susan Lee, Shirlee Clarke, Kim Doyle and Jeannie Ream.

Assignments:

  1. Go to Facebook and take the site tour (click on “Tour” in the upper right hand corner, then, click on each of the links under “Site Tour” in the right sidebar)
  2. Read this post by Meredith Farkas on Social Networking in Libraries
  3. Write a blog post on your thoughts about the utility of social networking in libraries

Optional/Extras

If you are curious, and want to try Facebook:

  1. Create a profile; invite some friends
  2. Visit the KRL Facebook page (it’s titled: Kitsap Regional Library – Sylvan Way Branch) page and add yourself as a fan
  3. Do a search on other library pages (search on “library” or “libraries” — you’ll find both individual profiles and library pages)
  4. Rather than blogging about Facebook, add a comment to the “Discussion Board” on the KRL FB page about how you think libraries might use Facebook

We’ve also created a separate post, Facebook Instructions, which has step-by-step instructions on setting up your profile as well a link to some video tutorials.We’ll have a drawing for everyone who completes the extras — you have until Sunday, February 3rd to do them.

Resources:

Additional Information:

Some Groups on Facebook to Check Out:

  • We Love Libraries
  • Libraries Using Facebook Page
  • Librarians and Facebook
  • FacebookAppsForLibraries
  • Library 2.0 Interest Group
  • Libraries and Librarians
  • NextGen Libraries

Other Social Networking sites:

  • MySpace–the largest social networking site (owned Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.)
  • LinkedIn–professional profiles and networking for individuals and organizations
  • Orkut–Google’s social networking site. You can access this from your Google account
  • Yuniti–started in 2005, described as a combination of MySpace and Facebook
  • Bebo–used primarily by 13 – 24 year olds; rated in one survey as the best social networking site

Some KRL Social Networking sites:

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4 Responses

  1. In reference to the wild apricot link (in resources): I noticed recently that amnesty international is recruiting volunteers to use social networking sites to promote their cause, and it occured to me that savvy networkers could promote KRL’s causes (like our levy) to our patrons and community using 2.0 technologies.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. The more ways we can enhance our online presence, push information to people, and go were our audience is, the more awareness I think we can generate.

    bc

  3. Kept waiting for Facebook info to show up under wiki2 – and there it is W 12 under W 7-8!

  4. yeah – a bit out-of-order on the sidebar. what happens is we you move things from the tabs at the top of the page to the sidebar, it gets very literal – everything automatically goes in alphabetical order. it’s reading “W” and a blank space, and puts that before “W9”

    bc.

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