A blog by the Brick Factory The Brick Factory

Should I vote for a friend while divulging my personal information?

Earlier this week, I got a mass e-mail from a friend asking all of us to vote for one of her food blog recipes (which looks delicious, by the way) in a competition.  In the past, I have gladly voted for her blog and recipes, but in those cases, I did not have to add an app to my Facebook account or provide any personal information.  I would have gladly done so now, but voting required working through a Facebook app.

In the past, I have indicated that Facebook app developers can access demographic information; that is what helps make these apps and social networks so valuable.  However, is it worth divulging my personal information to some app developer to help my friend win a poll or contest?  In this case, I am not voting. 

While her friendship and her hobby that brings her much happiness are important to me, they are not worth more than safeguarding my personal information.  If her invite was for a cause that I cared about and for a trustworthy organization that did a lot of good, I might agree to add the app to my account so that I could participate.

I would not mind giving my name, e-mail address, and similar information to many organizations.  That is why it is important for such organizations to transparently collect such information even when it is through polls and contests, and this can help them explain their mission and value.

Having said that, I just don’t divulge my information to anyone – even if a friend issues such a request.

Feel free to chime in the comments about when you are willing to divulge your personal information online and when you are not.

An Army of Many: Social Media and the Armed Forces

blog_army_socialmedia Social media is a powerful tool that often allows users to spread ideas and help make the world a better place. But what about the medium’s power to affect national (or personal) security? The US Department of the Army recently released a handbook that provides helpful hints and warnings about the dangers of social media to employees and soldiers. The 39 page document aims to reach the newcomers to social media as well as the tech-savvy .

From the operational security standpoint, this sort of guide makes perfect sense. When a 19 year old soldier has grown up with the internet and has been sharing facets if his or her life online for over a decade, it becomes important to set slight boundaries on what information should and should not be shared during wartime. The guide focuses on helping users of Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and blogging software be better aware of the data that they are putting online; as this information may compromise things like unit location and personal safety while deployed.

Some tips from the document include:

  • Be careful with geotagging pictures on Flickr or Picassa
  • Do not reveal sensitive personal information about yourself on social networking profiles
  • Talk to your family and make sure that they also follow good operational security online
  • Do not violate copyright or trademark

The US Army is not forbidding free speech, nor is it prohibiting its soldiers from using social media to connect with their friends and family across the globe. Rather – the Department of the Army is educating against accidental information leakage (like GPS coordinates or personal information) and making sure everyone is keeping up with good operational security practices.

To read the entire document go go –


What do you think of the US Army 2011 Social media guidelines?

Facebook is NOT big in Japan

In the U.S. 60% of Internet users have Facebook accounts.  In Japan, only 2% of Internet users have Facebook accounts and services like Mixi, Gree and Mobage-town are 10 times as big.  According to a recent New York Times article, one of the primary reasons Facebook has failed to catch on in Japan is its insistence that people use real names when signing up for accounts.  Japanese Internet users fiercely guard their privacy, and, according to the article, even popular bloggers prefer to use nicknames or pseudonyms when socializing on the web.  It is interesting that even as technology makes the world a little smaller every day, there are still some very fundamental differences in how people choose to use the tools we now have access to.  The full article is worth a read

Web 2.0 Year-End Recap – Part 1

2010 has been a big year for tech innovation and the social media world. Facebook hit 500 million users, and the midterm elections meant that our elected officials were tweeting en masse. This is part one of a two-part Bivings Report end-of-the-year recap of the top 10 biggest trends in web 2.0 in the last year.

Have your own ideas or think we missed an important development? Please do leave your thoughts in the comments below!

1. Location, location and location

This year saw the explosion of Foursquare, Gowalla and the launch of Facebook Places. With a consistently growing number of web and GPS-enabled phones on the market, geolocation-based social networks really took off in 2010. A number of major retailers utilized ‘checking in’  to offer discounts and promotions to their customers (particularly on Black Friday).  The competition amongst rivals Foursquare and Gowalla has also been intensifying over the course of the last twelve months – with Gowalla enabling Fouraquare check-ins through it’s application, and Foursquare allowing users to upload pictures when they check in.  We firmly believe that this particular web 2.0 tend will continue to flourish as more and more of the world’s population gains access to the internet via web-enabled phones.

2. Trend toward mobile + Cloud continues

More and more of the world’s cell phone customers are gaining access to web-enabled phone. Subsequently, a greater number of people is able to access a larger amount of information while on the go and removed from their computers.

Cloud computing is anther technological force that isn’t going away any time soon. More and more corporations, government agencies, and small businesses are beginning to utilize the efficiencies inherent in cloud computing to help their employees be more flexible and efficient. With companies like IBM and Microsoft throwing major publicity campaigns for the cloud – we predict that this technological innovation will continue to gain ground.

3. Websites making increasing use of social networking

While one would assume that by this point, there would be few, if any major media, corporate, or university website nowadays that does not feature at least one link to an online social network; we were surprised to find that many Fortune 500 companies still have not adopted social media. According to a 2010 study "The Fortune 500 and Social Media" by the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth: 

23% or 116 of the 2010 F500 companies have a corporate blog. Of the top ten F500 companies, only Bank of America does not have a public facing blog.  Compared to 2009 in which 22% of F500 companies had a blog, this aspect of online engagement appears to have become stagnant.

60% or 298 of the 2010 F500 companies have corporate Twitter accounts.  While this is up dramatically from 35% in 2009, one would expect that with the recent economic recession and a tougher competitive environment, more corporations would have jumped on the social media bandwagon.  Of the top ten Fortune 500 companies, Wal-Mart, Exxon, Chevron, General  Electric, Bank of America, ConocoPhillips, AT&T, Ford and HP regularly update their Twitter accounts.

56% or 280 of the 2010 F500 companies are now on Facebook.  While Facebook was not studied in the 2009 report, this number is again much lower than one would expect given Facebook’s growth and earned media attention.

4. Nonprofit and Charitable Giving: Be Strong and Innovate

While the economic recession took a major tool on fundraising for  nonprofits and charities in 2009 and the first half of 2010, two recent studies by Guidestar and the Network for Good indicate that not only is the worst over, but that also by adopting a strategic approach to online giving, it is possible for non-profits to succeed even in hard economic times.

In GuideStar’s 2010 Fundraising Survey which polled 2,356 public charities and 163 private foundations:


Facebook as Predictor of the 2010 Elections

A few days ago Facebook released a study that showed that in most cases the candidate with the most Facebook fans won the election.  Specifically, they wrote:

“The Facebook political team’s initial snapshot of 98 House races shows that 74% of candidates with the most Facebook fans won their contests. In the Senate, our initial snapshot of 19 races shows that 81% of candidates with the most Facebook fans won their contests.”

Folks a lot smarter than I am have deftly pointed out the problems with the concept that you can predict election results based on the number of Facebook fans.  We have no idea how many of the fans actually live in the district of the politicians they are fans of.  Tea Party and colorful folks tend to attract more fans that more straightforward candidates.  Etc.  Etc.

However, I did want to add one small point to the discussion.  For politicians in lower profile races (Congress in particular), the number of Facebook hands is more an indication of how hard they have worked to recruit fans than it is of voter enthusiasm.

These fans don’t just appear out of the blue – campaigns work hard to actively build their fan base using a variety of tactics.  Do they have a prominent Facebook link on their site?  Do they include their Facebook address in email communication?  Do they post compelling content?  Do they run Facebook ads in an effort to promote their page?

Politicians with national profiles can simply put a Facebook page up and watch the numbers grow.  But your run-of-the-mill Congressional candidate has to work to grow their supporter base.  If you put in the time and spend some money you can make your numbers go up.  If you don’t, your numbers will stay pretty flat unless you are a sensation like Christine O’Donnell or Sharon Angle.