My IBM launched

My IBM, a social network that adds to IBMs Developer Works community, http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/ has been launched

Described by them as ‘the place where you and your peers congregate to connect, share, and collaborate. Great content is just the beginning, and now it’s time for you to take the next step: Create your professional profile and your custom home page on My developerWorks. Then find and connect with like-minded peers, and invite them into your My developerWorks network to share expertise and build groups for further interaction and collaboration.’

The sign up to the service is open to anyone, though not exactly intuitive. The register button takes you to the sign in page when you then have to select the register button! If you make a mistake on any part of the form it lost most of your entries after the error was highlighted.

Similarly when selecting a screen name, which has to be unique, there is no way of checking if it is available prior to entering it together with the captcha field, so if it is not available you have to enter a new name and another captcha.

Once you have registered you can then edit your profile and they say ‘Search for contact information and organizational information about your colleagues. Locate expertise and build your own social network. Get access to the information your colleagues are collecting and publishing.’

On several occasions I got a ‘oops that didn’t work’ screen so clearly there are some glitches which have not been fixed prior to launch and I have yet to be able to either view my profile page or edit it.

You can search for people by keyword or by name.

In a users profile I found the following

Roles:

Skills:

Area of interest:

Goals:

Professional expertise:

Biography and interests:

With a large number of users already on this platform, IBM have already jumped the first hurdle of signing up users. Their challenge now is to get those already on the network to see a value of creating profiles. I will be also interested to see if the network grows to include the ability to add video and other features.

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Should Facebook have a Death Wish list?

How was you told that the last person that you were very close to died?

When a work colleague died I remember receiving a group email, shocking but at least there were others around in the office to look to for support. In the age of social networking there is every possibility that you could discover that someone close died via a profile update. With the rapid growth of mobile internet you could be in the middle of a meeting, stood in the queue at the supermarket, out for a meal with friends or picking up the kids from school.

Whilst you could be in all these scenarios to discover the death of a friend via a telephone call, the ‘accidental’ impact of discovering of someones death from a wall post or status update on a social profile seems to have an added loneliness and depth of shock.

So what happens next?

Some friends may wish to post messages of their shock and sadness on the profile of the deceased. Others may feel this inappropriate, feel that such public displays of grief are inappropriate. 

Who should decide if and when a profile is removed?

Should relatives be given control?

At funerals I have always disliked the saying ‘they would have wanted…’ said so many a time by people who have no idea what the deceased wanted at all.

A solution to this would be a ‘living will’ on social networks – a ‘death wishlist’ or ‘social network after life’. At some point after signing up to a social network you should be given the option to select what you would like to happen to your account after you die. I would imagine that most will not bother, but for those of us who do not want others to speak in their name, this could be a way of securing that our wishes are met. 

A ‘passed on’ option or ‘dead’, if you would prefer to be more blunt, could be useful – this would enable friends to stay friends but not have the deceased pop up every time an application wants you to choose friends to invite. Pre-programmable options after the ‘dead’ option is activated could include a series of status updates – spooky but could also provide some comfort (or hilarity). 

In the absence of a ‘Facebook Death List’ I’d like to let my wishes be known:

  • Post away on my profile after I’ve gone, for me death has traditionally been a social event. At least on-line there wont be any stale sandwiches 
  • My profile can stay, but if you’re a friend don’t feel embarrassed to delete me as a friend if seeing me in your friends list makes you feel uncomfortable
  • Take photos at my funeral (no one ever does this which is a shame when everyone made such an effort to look good – and of course look gorgeous in black). A HD video stream would be even better.  
  • Make sure the coffin and later pictures of my gravestone are tagged just to make sure anyone who might stumble by my profile understands why I haven’t updated my status in a while.
  • If someone can post messages each year to a newspaper on the anniversary of a death then I cant see why you can’t make it easier for people by keeping your profile open so they can post messages there.

Social networks have become such a major part of our lives, for me, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be a major part of death. I just hope that my last profile picture is a good one as I hopeit will be around for a lot longer than I was.

So what would you’re ‘Death Wish List’ be? Should Facebook let you decide what happens to your profile after you’re death or is this for you’re family to decide? Will last.fm discover new meaning? What happens to your last tweet when you are no longer able to twitter?

Has Friends Reunited left it too late to let you unite?

I joined Friends Reunited long before the term ‘Social Network’ was being used to describe a wave of sites that now connect millions around the world. In the early days you could not add photos (even a profile picture) without paying a subscription. Email addresses and website addresses were banned, leading me to resort to describing my site as wellbelove dot com. The ban was due to the fact that if you wanted to message an old school friend you had to part with the cash for a yearly subscription. Friends Reunited wanted to stop you getting in touch with your old school friends by any other means.

With the birth of services sits such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo, where users are free to find and message to their hearts content. Friends Reunited stuck to it’s business model and with it suffered a decline in usage. This all happened as It’s new owners ITV (2005) was having lots of problems elsewhere and what Friends Reunited had really needed at that time was a fresh company with the energy and the guts to react fast and change before it was too late.

Only now, years after Friends Reunited have watched new comers come and grow, have they finally made it free for you to message and receive messages from friends.

Friends Reunited has a big issue with thousands of dormant accounts, many who signed up originally will have changed their email address several times losing contact with the site. How annoying to finally be able to message your friends only to find out that they are no longer there to pick up your message. Careful management of dormant accounts is needed so that we do not have to sift through lots of dead wood to reach the occasional active one.

Friends Reunited are planning a multi-million marketing campaign to help them regain the ground loss to fresher rivals. This will hopefully tempt those who have been away holidaying on the Facebook beach to come back and see if there is anyone else out there who isn’t also on Facebook.

Friends Reunited now needs to go the next step. Enable people to make their profile public – you currently have to be logged in to see any content – what better tool for driving traffic to the site than a million names on a search engine. Integration with other social networking sites would also drive usage. A Friends Reunited Facebook application is needed (if not already planned), a step to far for the owners at ITV maybe?

Beware your digital signature

Businesses and politicians alike would love to control the messages about them. With the internet it is far harder to have this control but just trying to avoid this medium won’t solve the problem as if you are not writing about yourself then someone else will. Without your content about you, when someone Googles your name the only the things they will find will put there by others and their view of you or what you have done will be the only content available. Every piece of content that you or others put on the internet about you forms part of a ‘digital signature’, easily retrievable and reproduced.

As a relatively new politician, I was first elected in 2006, I am getting used to the fact that what I say and how I vote is now recorded and could be used against me (or for me). Today when I googled myself I found an excellently produced website (just because they do not agree with how I voted doesn’t mean I can’t give credit where it is due when I find a well designed site). The site displays the councillors that voted against a motion they favoured. What I say and how I voted is recorded on the Lambeth website and I even reproduce and make available my speeches on my own website. How political groups vote is debated extensively prior to the public vote which is recorded, policy and speeches homed and practiced.

But what about those starting out with their interest in politics, what digital signature are they leaving in the early days of their passion for politics as they develop their views. Could some of what they do or say now, recorded on the web, come back one day to haunt them and even ruin their political career in years to come?

In the eighties and nineties when I joined marches against racism, apartheid, poll tax and pretty much anything that Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives could throw at us, I did not give a second thought that what I said or my actions could affect me twenty years later. Now, in an age when everything you do or say can be captured by the multitude of devices hidden away in the pockets of all around you, there is not the same luxury of developing your political direction in public without the possibility of it coming back to bite you. For those on that early journey I would think twice on what you put on-line or at least be ready to defend it for the rest of your life, even after some of your views may have changed.

So there are two elements to your digital signature, those you personally add to the internet either through your own website or by contributing to a social network / photo or video sharing site; I call these the controllable digital signature. Whilst you have some control over this content, you can add and remove, you should always remember that just because you remove it this does not mean that someone else has not downloaded and kept a copy or captured the screen.

The second type of digital signature is content added by others; this could be a quote or article added where you have spoken to a journalist, an article or comment added with someone else’s opinion of you; photos, videos or audio that can be added either by your friends and more worryingly those who may not have your best interest at hand.

The digital era does not change the fact that if you can be exposed doing something or having an opinion that you may not wish to be seen by all – what it does is make it easier for people to access it; view or hear it firsthand, and for a wider audience to capture and share those moments in time you may wish stayed where they started.

Many politicians have become increasingly nervous about this and have reverted to the controlling tendencies I mentioned earlier. Well you won’t be able to control all elements – just make the most of the content that you do. And if you are going to do something that you may regret later, then remember that it’s not just word of mouth you need to be worried about – you may end up on YouTube performing your party trick for your constituents to see.

For everyone your Google search is effectively your on-line CV. Employers will Google you and spend more time on maintaining what information there is about you on-line. Read more about this on Jerimiahs blog. Here his example on where an individual has little presence on-line has his Google search dominated by negative content that he has no control of. You must not wait until the problem arises as the damage is already done.