Tag Archive: Facebook

80% Won’t Post This


…and that’s a GOOD thing.

Take a look at this popular Facebook status update…

Every person has 1000 wishes. A cancer patient only has one wish, to get better. I know that 97% of Facebookers won’t post this as their status, but my friends will be the 3% that do. In honor of someone who died, or is fighting cancer – post this for at least one hour….

Now look at this one….

Today I’m going to pause to remember all those who are suffering from cancer, as well as their friends and family who are affected by this terrible disease.

…or this one…

Please remember my friend _____, who is battling cancer right now. Feel free to repost if you know someone else that might be concerned about him/her.

The first one is trite and passive aggressive. The last two have similar messages and concerns, and the second even encourages reposting, but to me are much less offensive. There is none of the guilt-inducing “you can’t be my friend if you don’t copy me exactly” sort of language. To me the last two messages are much more effective.

Danielle Foster, a contributing writer at Suite 101, describes this type of Facebook activism very succinctly:

The purpose of raising awareness about an important cause is to inspire people to reflect on the issue. The hope is that after awareness is raised, action will follow. Do status memes promoting awareness accomplish action, or are they merely providing short-lived entertainment and self-validation?…

…What this whole message is really doing is fishing for validation under the cover of supporting cancer victims. If you are the poster’s true friend, you will re-post the message because being that person’s true friend makes you a great person who would not dare dis-honor cancer victims, or the poster’s friendship with you, by not re-posting. You are this person’s friend aren’t you? You don’t hate cancer victims, do you? You had better re-post.

Read more at Suite101: Raising Awareness With Facebook: Does It Work? http://www.suite101.com/content/raising-awareness-with-facebook-does-it-work-a319040#ixzz1D6NkBMuF


Facebook and Online Responsibility


The problems surrounding teachers using Facebook seem to be getting more and more complex. I’ve written before about how teacher’s private use of Facebook can impact their jobs, whether justly or unjustly. The issue that was brought up recently involves teachers’ use of Facebook on private mobile devices during school hours.

This is a tricky issue. We want teachers to be doing what they are paid to do – teach their classes and monitor their students. But how do you keep this in check?

We have Facebook blocked in our district because of some of the discipline issues is creates with students. It was suggested that we consider adding restrictions on Facebook usage on private mobile devices to our Acceptable Use Policy. I flatly disagreed with that. Our AUP regulates acceptable use of district-owned equipment and services, not private equipment. I don’t think should or legally could use a policy written for district equipment to be applied to private equipment. (more…)

Hidden Columbia


Dark Skyline

Tuesday I had to make one of my occasional trips down to Columbia for a meeting. The meeting was being held in an unusual location, and there were traffic detours all around the school. That meant that I saw more of Columbia neighborhoods than I normally see on one of these visits. Seeing the abandoned railway that runs through Columbia and some of the older neighborhoods, I was reminded of a Facebook discovery I’d made – a fan page entitled Hidden Columbia. When I got back from my meeting I decided to look at it more closely, and found a treasure trove.

Hidden Columbia is a production of WOLO News, the local ABC affiliate, and airs every other Tuesday on their 11:00 pm newscast. Reporter Anderson Burns seeks out the obscure and unusual around the city. Sometimes this is some local oddity, or it may be a bit of history that has been covered over with development. Here’s a story about hidden tunnels around Columbia…

…and another about “Underground Columbia,” a development that was supposed to be like Underground Atlanta, but was never really realized…

The videos can be seen on the Facebook fan page. Unfortunately, they are ONLY available on Facebook, as far as I can tell. The station’s website is a pathetic jumble of slick advertisements with shiny buttons that point to Facebook and Twitter, but there is no content there. So, if you’re not on Facebook, you can’t view the videos. (Unless you know a sneaky little bit of code and can embed the videos, like I did here.)

Facebook problems aside, Burns has explored some fascinating locations. Because of his reporter status, he’s been granted permission to visit some places that are off-limits to the general public. But, he makes clear in his reports which areas are publicly accessible and which are posted. I hope that revealing the location of these treasures doesn’t cause problems from those that might trespass and cause damage.

I’ve only had time to view a few of the videos, but now I’m tempted to find one of these the next time I’m down that way. I’ve got to be in Columbia several days in March, so I think I’ll watch more of these, and possibly plot them on Google Earth. It would be something interesting to do while I’m not in workshops.

Teachers and Facebook



Yesterday there was an article in the Greenville News about development of a policy for teacher use of Facebook. The article stated that the board was holding off on approval of the policy because some members had raised “ethical, legal and technical questions.”    The new policy would put into place a procedure for dismissing teachers for improper behavior in social networking sites.

According to the policy,  teachers €œshould recognize that they are being continuously observed by students, other employees, parents, and community members, and that their actions and demeanor may impair their effectiveness as an employee.€  It goes on to state the following:

The personal life of an employee including the employee’s personal use of non-district issued electronic equipment outside of working hours (such as through social networking sites and personal portrayal on the Internet), will be the concern of and warrant the attention of the board if it impairs the employee’s ability to be an effective teacher, effectively perform his/her job responsibilities, or if it violates local, state, or federal law or contractual agreements.

That phrase “impairs the employee’s ability to be an effective teacher” is the bit that gets me.  It was used by one of my counterparts in another district over a lunch discussion about this same issue.  The phrase is overly broad, and open to interpretation.  If a one parent takes offense at something I’ve posted, does that meet the criteria?  I have experienced first hand some of these dangers, and I know that it’s possible to make the wrong decision and wreck someone’s career for no reason.

I’m not talking about things that are obviously wrong, such as drug use or illegal activities.  I’m talking about teachers getting in trouble for normal adult activity.  Take, for example, the case of Ashley Payne.  The Appalachee High School teacher from Winder, Georgia posted the following photo on Facebook…

The photo was taken while Payne was on vacation and posted on a supposedly private portion of Facebook.  Elsewhere on her site she mentioned “Going to Bitch BINGO,” the name of a game played at an Atlanta restaurant.  A parent complained, and this was enough to get her fired – one photo of the teacher with a beer in her hand while on vacation and one word that caused offense.

Last year my Facebook profile photo was my infamous “Santa Martini” photo…

Santa Martini

I was told by another one of my counterparts that I would have been fired in her district.  The “effectiveness as an employee” clause would have been invoked.  I’m sure that I’ve used language just as offensive on this blog as the unfortunate teacher above used.  Fortunately, no one has said anything about this blog or the photo as to either being amiss or diminishing my ability to teach.

However, my situation is a bit different.  As a district administrator I’m less likely to have a kid who’s curious about their teacher Google me.  Children (and parents) are naturally interested in their teachers, and want to find out about them.  And sometimes it can have unfortunate consequences.

Here’s another example of leaping to conclusions – a case in which I was directly involved, and I was able to prevent some problems.  I received a complaint about that a teacher had inappropriate material on his Facebook page.  This was a well-respected, veteran teacher, and I had a hard time believing this to be true.  I checked out the page (which was NOT set to private), and there was a picture of a young lady, a student, with her skirt hiked up indecently high and showing her legs with colorful stockings.

On the face of it, this was incriminating.  However, there was more to the story.  The young lady was proud of her silly, colorful stockings and was showing them off for one of her friends.  The friend took a photo with her cell phone, then uploaded the photo to HER Facebook account.  Somewhere in the background of the show you could see the teacher’s left foot.  The student tagged the foot as with the teacher’s name, causing the photo to show up on his profile.  The teacher had nothing to do with it, and was even unaware that his name was associated with the photo.

In this case I recommended to the teacher than he not friend his students.  In fact, this is what we recommend in general for our teachers.  Unlike Greenville County, we currently have no plans to make this into policy.  Our district even allows some leeway when students are family friends, or are related to teachers.

When I do workshops on blogging and social networking I always tell teachers to be circumspect in what they post, because it may come back to haunt them.  However, in the case of our teacher, he was an innocent bystander who had unfortunately friended his students.  I can see this happening more and more, though, and I blame digital cameras.

People don’t share photos in print format anymore.   Online photos galleries are the most common way to share vacation photos, etc.  Someone may take a photo of a young teacher at the lake or beach in a bathing suit and post it online, or take a picture of a teacher with a drink in their hand, and some parent may find that offensive.  So what’s one to do?  Completely abandon any online life, or just make sure than no photos of them are ever taken?

I’m really glad that the Greenville County School Board decided to take a step back.   The line between public and private lives gets blurred with everything now being online, and there is really no going back.    Some members of the board have recognized that teachers have rights, and that they can’t/shouldn’t try to control all teacher behavior.   I’m glad our district has also come to that conclusion, and I just wished that other districts were as enlightened.

Literary Characters on Social Networking


It started with a call similar to one I get very frequently in my position, although taking an opposite tact – “Can you unblock Facebook for a class?” Usually I’m being asked to make sure it’s blocked. When I asked why the site should be unblocked, I was given one of the best explanations and classroom ideas I’ve had in a long time. While I wasn’t able to unblock the site, I was able to point the requester in a different, more appropriate direction.

Here’s the proposal…

A teacher at our Freshman Academy wanted her students to sign up for Facebook, BUT, they had to sign up as a character from one of the books that they were studying. All of their interactions on the site had to be from the perspective of that character. Think back to the “Hamlet as a Facebook Feed” that I posted last time, and you get a taste of the idea.

Instead of using Facebook, I suggested setting up a Ning.com network. Ning provides much of the same social interaction as Facebook, but can be more closely monitored by the teachers. It’s the perfect environment for a project like this.

So, last Wednesday I met with the literature teacher, Susan Miles, a history teacher, Sabrina Shuler, the school’s curriculum facilitator, John Ratteree, the school’s media specialist, Candi Vaughn, and the school’s tech coordinator, Sarah Cleveland. I gave them a demonstration of the system using several Ning networks that I had created or that I am a member of.

Right away they took the idea and ran with it. Susan was the teacher who wanted to do the literary characters. Sabrina wanted to set up a network and have her students become historical figures. Together they brainstormed several cross-curricular interactions, such as “How might Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. interact with a character from ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ in a social networking environment?” The possibilities are fantastic.

As the discussion progressed the group came up with more ideas for using such a social network outside of the original project. They suggested uses for other classroom Ning sites for homework help, etc. It was one of the most exciting, and encouraging technology meetings I’ve been to in quite awhile. I’ll be following their progress closely, and I hope they are able to sustain this excitement with their classes.

Hamlet as a Facebook Feed


I was doing some research on literary characters as Facebook profiles when I came across this gem on Timothy McSween’s blog



- – – -

Horatio thinks he saw a ghost.

Hamlet thinks it’s annoying when your uncle marries your mother right after your dad dies.

The king thinks Hamlet’s annoying.

Laertes thinks Ophelia can do better.

Hamlet’s father is now a zombie.

- – – -

The king poked the queen.

The queen poked the king back.

Hamlet and the queen are no longer friends.

Marcellus is pretty sure something’s rotten around here.

Hamlet became a fan of daggers.

- – – -

Polonius says Hamlet’s crazy … crazy in love!

Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Hamlet are now friends.

Hamlet wonders if he should continue to exist. Or not.

Hamlet thinks Ophelia might be happier in a convent.

Ophelia removed “moody princes” from her interests.

Hamlet posted an event: A Play That’s Totally Fictional and In No Way About My Family

The king commented on Hamlet’s play: “What is wrong with you?”

Polonius thinks this curtain looks like a good thing to hide behind.

Polonius is no longer online.

- – – -

Hamlet added England to the Places I’ve Been application.

The queen is worried about Ophelia.

Ophelia loves flowers. Flowers flowers flowers flowers flowers. Oh, look, a river.

Ophelia joined the group Maidens Who Don’t Float.

Laertes wonders what the hell happened while he was gone.

- – – -

The king sent Hamlet a goblet of wine.

The queen likes wine!

The king likes … oh crap.

The queen, the king, Laertes, and Hamlet are now zombies.

Horatio says well that was tragic.

Fortinbras, Prince of Norway, says yes, tragic. We’ll take it from here.

Denmark is now Norwegian.

How to Kill Twitter (or Facebook)


One of the things I love about Twitter and Facebook is that you can update one from the other through various third party services.  Unfortunately this opens up some potential security problems for these services.  I’m sure someone has already thought about this, and I’m sure these services have safeguards in place, but what if…

  1. Someone signs up for accounts in Twitter, Twitterfeed, and Yahoo Pipes.
  2. The RSS feed from Twitter is fed into Yahoo Pipes.
  3. The resulting RSS feed from Yahoo Pipes is fed into Twitterfeed.
  4. Twitterfeed updates Twitter.
  5. This person then posts a single update on Twitter.

The result would be a recursive loop where the post would be endlessly reposted from one service to another.  Now let’s say you let Twitter update your Facebook status.  That would then start repeating the same update on that service, too.

Most of these services have time limits that prevent something like this from happening.  The API is polled on a limited time.  However, even if the API polls the server once every hour, it would still flood your services with the same message over and over again.

For Twitter, even though this is a weakness, some services rely on unlimited API access.  According to the Read Write Web blog, Twitter is now restricting its API polling.

I have no intention of testing this theory.  I like using Twitter and Facebook too much.  I don’t recommend that any of my readers do this, either.  However, from a purely academic standpoint, it’s interesting to speculate what might happen.

Reflections on Twitter and The Death of Conversation



A synopsis/compilation of recent conversations…

Me: Yesterday several of my friends and I went for a hike in the…

Sibling/Friend: …yeah, I read that in your blog.

Me: For our anniversary we went to Disney and…

Sibling/Friend: …I saw your posts and pictures online.

Me: Um, is there anything new I can tell you?

Sibling/Friend: [silence]

I began to wonder if blogging and social media had, in fact, killed conversation, rather than enhancing it. (more…)

Targeting to the Extreme


I am not naive.  I am aware of the level of targeting and profiling that advertisers use to get their message across, especially on the Internet.  However, every now and then it really catches me off-guard.  Facebook is notorious for this, sending ads my way that read “Sing in Italy this summer” because I’ve listed on my profile that I’m a choral director and singer.  I get lots of kayaking and outdoorsy ads because those activities are prominently listed in my profile, too.  Today’s incident was striking, even by Facebook standards.

I was exchanging messages with my friend Ken Cothran.  We had veered off-topic and he was asking advice on wireless cell plans.  When I looked at his reply, immediately to the right was an ad for Vonage phone service.  I brought this to Ken’s attention, and wondered in my reply what would happen if I mentioned a Nikon D90 or Canon Mark 5D camera.  Sure enough, an ad popped up that read “Photographers Wanted – A Chance to win a Canon 5D.”

Our further exchange went something like this…

I got an ad for “getting rid of my tattoos.” Funny, as I don’t have any.
Perhaps Facebook does think you have tattoos. Perhaps you should get a tattoo. Maybe it’s referring to the Russian girl band Tatu, or perhaps making a commentary on your Betamax collection of old Fantasy Island episodes. Who knows?

After that last exchange mentioning something in Russia I got an ad for T-Shirts with the following image…



Facebook goes beyond targeting for fields in a profile and scans text for potential ad words, even in supposedly “private” messages (although nothing’s really private on Facebook.)  This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed it.  I was in a chat box talking to my neice about a telescope for her son when an ad for Astronomy magazine appeared.  This was even more egregious as the ad appear right after I typed the words.

For a long time now we’ve had to ignore advertising on the Internet, and I’m not sure why these incidents on Facebook have struck me the way they have.  Have to give up a bit of eyeball real estate is the price one pays for getting free access to systems such as Facebook.  As long as they don’t get too obnoxious, and don’t start dropping spyware on my computer, I’m OK with a few visual distractions.

Blurring the Lines of Webdom


I’ve been tweaking my online presence over the past several weeks. As I’ve gotten more involved with Facebook, I’ve started pulling in RSS feeds from Twitter, Friendfeed, Flickr, and most recently RandomConnections so that all of these automatically update on my Facebook profile. For me it’s a simple matter of laziness. I’d prefer to type something once, rather than put entries here, re-type them on Facebook, etc., etc.

With all of this automatic cross-posting, the boundaries between traditional websites have really become blurred. All of the posts that I publish here automatically show up as notes on my Facebook profile. I’ve gotten several comments on those Facebook notes – more, even than I’ve gotten here lately. I wonder how many of those commentors are even aware that there is an analogous website, or if Facebook is their only way to view this content.

And this isn’t limited to Facebook. A long time ago I set up a Tumblr site, and pulled in the feeds from RandomConnections. I’ve neglected it, but it’s still an exact duplicate of RandomConnections, including the latest content. The same goes for my account on Virb.com, which also automatically pulls in both the RandomConnections content and my Flickr photos.

I think about my own reading habits. I use Bloglines to keep track of multiple websites and RSS feeds. Many of those sites I rarely visit unless I want to leave a comment. I just read the content on the feed reader. I’m absolutely sure there are others that do the same for RandomConnections.

This almost almost begs the question of why we need websites at all anymore. If you’ve got some way to create posts and feed them up through RSS, you’re pretty much set for a multitude of social networks. Yet there is still some panache to having a cool, easy to remember domain name. Getting a good one anymore is like buying waterfront property. I feel fortunate to have gotten the RandomConnections.com domain, and plan to hang onto it as long as I can.

However, more important than having a good domain name is the concept of web branding. My friends Lauren Cobb, Patrick Greer, Geno Church, and my nephew Chip could tell you more about that. I personally try to keep a consistent presence across all of the social networking sites I use, with the same icon and RandomConnections username. The result has been fairly good search engine optimization. If you do a Google search for a topic with which I’m involved, one of my social network sites will be fairly high in the results. (I know I could improve this by trying to keep my blog focused, but that’s for a different discussion.)

So, the upshot of this is that I do have a website. It’s found at www.randomconnections.com (which is blindingly obvious if you happen to be on the site right now), but you don’t necessarily have to go there to read it. Perhaps Lee Lefever puts it best…

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