Monday, December 31, 2012

Social Media Goals for the New Year

Every year I think people will start to get the hang of social media. After all, it's really not much different from what we've done as a society forever, just more rapid-fire. Every year I am proven wrong.

Perhaps we need to consider better behavior on social media as a New Year Resolution for it to take effect. So here's my attempt at guidance.


When I got to college, few people had heard of email and even fewer used it. Usenet was a foreign concept to nearly everyone I knew in meat-space, but with so much traffic I knew it wasn't hurting for users. Before there was a web, I understood the notion of choosing my words carefully. Archives of all my posts would surely stick around for many years, I thought, and so they have. I can still find stuff I posted back in 1992.

As the web happened and it became easier for anyone to share anything, and as email flourished (back when we had time to read it instead of filtering it), I adopted a variation on an old idea of how to behave in email — never write something in an email you wouldn't want to be posted on the front page of The New York Times. Nowadays maybe it's a tweet on the front page of the Fail Blog.

I think we should all accept that with the ubiquity of cell phone cameras, let alone all the surveillance cameras, web cams, and soon airborne drones made by 12-year-olds, everything you do runs the risk of being scrutinized and posted online for the world to judge. By posting your own contributions to social media sites, you (and I) continue to drive it.

When Facebook's co-founder's sister (who is also Facebook's former marketing director) posted a photo to Facebook and was surprised to see it tweeted by someone she didn't know, claiming it as an invasion of privacy, the collective web laughed at her. She became the holiday poster child for how confusing Facebook's privacy settings are to understand and implement — and she's the sister of the face of the company.

It also makes her follow-up tweet all the more laughable, partly because I doubt she asked the permission of her family members before posting their photos online:

What You Can Do as a Social Media User

Most importantly, don't think that just because you have locked down your social media accounts, no one that you haven't authorized can see it. An errant retweet or a misunderstood setting are all it takes to make that notion come crashing down. Just look at Zuckerberg's sister — she clearly doesn't understand either of the platforms she uses despite what she thinks.

I have my own set of rules I follow and I try to lead by example. That doesn't mean all mine are right, but I had to start somewhere.

  • For the most part, I do not post photos of people without their permission. Exceptions include crowd shots.
  • I don't post photos of children, though when there are exceptions I do not post names with the photos.
  • When I do take general place or crowd photos, I avoid posting ones with the faces of children visible.
  • I avoid posting photos with faces visible when I am making fun of a particular fashion choice.
  • I don't create venues for homes.
  • I don't post photos with street addresses visible.
  • I don't embed GPS information when tweeting from someone's home.
  • I don't retweet tweets from a protected account (unless I have permission or it's a particularly good insult to me).
  • I don't tag people in photos without permission or prior experience that it will be fine.
  • I don't tag friends in places when I am out, which is also why I don't auto-tweet my Foursquare check-ins (on top of the fact that it's annoying).
  • I don't include information about friend or family schedules in posts, especially when they are travelling.
  • I do not sync my phone with any cloud service or allow any auto-posting. I'd rather pick and choose than run the risk of the wrong image making it to the wrong place.

It's worth noting that I have violated all of these at least once, sometimes by accident and sometimes by stupidity. In a handful of cases I have been rightly chastised.

When it comes to kids (anyone's kids), I work to make sure I don't put enough information out there that a motivated offender couldn't just drive up to a kid on the street and spout enough information to make the kid think it's safe to get into his car. I wish more parents on Facebook made that effort.

What You Should Do as a Person in the World

Accept that everyone has a camera and can post photos and videos of you at any time. Accept that you may appear unintentionally in crowd photos that appear on everything from locked-down Facebook pages to the local news to band fliers and so on.

When you have a friend who keeps posting photos of you that you don't want posted, you should confront him or her. At some point you'll have to decide between how cautious or uptight you want to be versus how much that friendship means to you.

If you are a Facebook user, you can control whether or not you get tagged in photos (as a link to your Facebook page only) and you can even un-tag yourself.

Either behave or own your pile of crazy.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

2012 Advent Calendars for Web Devs

Now that the (Western, my favorite) holiday season is upon us, the tradition of advent calendars whose chocolate is replaced with web-related tips and articles is back. This year's crop is missing some from last year, but there's still good stuff to be found.

If you know of any others, please pass them along. For those not returning, I have listed them at the end.

1. 24 Ways

24 Ways, the one that pretty much defines the genre for me, is back again. It's been going strong since 2005 and based on its history this year should have some good articles.

2. Performance Calendar

Performance Calendar dates back to 2009 (and still defaults to 2011 if you go straight to the domain). It focuses on techniques to speed up your site via scripting, CSS, and general mark-up, along with server tweaks and analysis suggestions.

3. Perl Advent Calendar

Perl Advent Calendar goes all the way back to 2000 (and back then looked a bit more like a traditional advent calendar, too) and has been dispensing tips for Perl developers ever since.

4. Webkrauts

Webkrauts has an all German advent calendar, and it also dates back to 2005. It covers general web topics, but being in all-German readers like me will benefit from a Google Translate version of the page. Suggestion via @patrick_h_lauke.

5. 24 Jours de Web

24 Jours de Web has kicked off its first year as an advent calendar for web folk. Written in French it is clearly primarily targeted at French speakers, but a round of Google Translate will open it up to far more readers (like me). Suggestion via @PhilippeVay.

6. Japanese HTML5 Advent Calendar

HTML5 Advent Calendar 2012 is in Japanese, and thanks to the wonderful powers of Google Translate, it was very little confidence that I suggest it is produced by volunteers who have each picked a day and written something about the web (based on this statement: 登録した日に自分のブログなどにエントリーを書いてください。). If you know Japanese, I welcome any corrections. The site appears to host other advent calendars, some about web technologies, some not.

7. Web Advent

Web Advent is back. I had incorrectly listed it as not returning below, under its original address as the PHP advent calendar. With its name and domain change, it appears to be back again this year and keeping its streak from 2007 going strong.

8. HTML & CSS Advent

HTML & CSS Advent uses a rather self-explanatory name. Moving away from last year's advent-calendar-flap layout and to more of a list of articles, you'll find some experimentation with cutting-edge (or nearly so) features that may not make into client work just yet.

9. 12 Devs of Xmas

12 Devs of Xmas was also listed below as not returning (it has articles from last year), but I misunderstood — it will be starting the day after Christmas and going for 12 days from then. When all the other calendars have wrapped up, you'll still have one to read.

10. UXmas

UXmas is an advent calendar aimed at the user experience community. Coming from Australia, American readers may be thrown just a bit by the schedule. The calendar promises everything from sketches, to articles, to tools, to videos. Found this one via .net Magazine.

11. Freelancember

Freelancember 2012 is produced by the makers of Freckle time tracking software and targeted squarely at freelancers. Its daily entries will consist of downloadable gifts in the form of PDF worksheets. Think of this as less about web-tech and more about MadLibs for projects. Found this one via .net Magazine.

12. Mozilla Developer Network Holidays calendar

Mozilla Developer Network Holidays calendar includes brief links to resources or demos and suggests that you can edit them (if they are MDN resources). I had this one listed as non-returning because last year's address was very generic and the site has no navigation on the home page to direct users here. Perhaps that should be tip #1.

13. She Said It

She Said It is an advent calendar dedicated to providing general tips for the web industry in general, with quotes provided by women in the field. I only discovered this on Christmas Eve eve, so I've seen it fully populated by now. This calendar is produced in Sweden, but its contributors hail from everywhere.

14. 12 Days of Podcasts

12 Days of Podcasts, which I discovered on the day after Christmas, runs from December 26 to January 6, 2013. Each day will have a different audio-only interview with assorted web folks. You can stream them off the site or download the MP3 for later listening pleasure (perhaps during that terrible New Year party you're attending).

Not Returning

A handful of calendars aren't returning this year (so far), but content from previous years is still available. These include Font Deck's Adfont Calendar, and the Fronteers advent calendar (in Dutch).

Completely Unrelated

I discovered this one this morning and have no idea what to expect (other than the first day so far), but it might worth a look: Popperfont's Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza. With such a compelling name, how can you not look?