UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

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Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

Facebook Or Twitter – Or Facebook And Twitter

Posted by Brian Kelly on 15 Apr 2008

In the opening plenary talk on Hands On The Internetat the Museums and the Web 2008 conference Michael Geist mentioned the popularity of Facebook in Canada – apparently Canada has the highest per capita Facebook usage in the world. And, as described in a blog post on the talk by arkrausehardie Michael described the “enormous pressure a sort of flash-mob FaceBook group can bring to bare (sic!) on public policy such as the recent group started by Geist on copyright issues in Canada, now with more than 40,000 members“.

The interest in the potential of Facebook for engaging with a museum’s user community was described in a number of papers at the conference. For example Shelley Bernstein’s paper on “Where Do We Go From Here? Continuing with Web 2.0 at Brooklyn Museum” described the ArtShare Facebook application they had developed to “share works of art from Museums around the world“. And a paper by Brian Kelly and colleagues at the Canada Science and Technology Museum on “Social Presence: New Value For Museums And Networked Audiences”  described “specific experiments with social media, including a detailed analysis of a Facebook group used by the Canada Science and Technology Museum Corporation’s Membership Program“. In addition the paper described “two theoretical models – the “Innovation Radar” and genre analysis – to help analyze the nature of the opportunities for innovation, and to develop a better understanding of the distinctive characteristics of alternate communication channels“.

And yet in some circle such use of Facebook is being derided with comments such as “It’s a closed garden“, “Its popularity is on the wane” or “Twitter is a better development environment” being made. I have to say that I find that such comments tend to miss the point.  A recent post on “The Becoming Uninteresting Complex – Facebook versus Twitter” commented on the “pretty irrational questionings like “is Twitter replacing Facebook?“, Twitter doesn’t allow socialization. It simply allow instant interactions“.

And as can be seen from a Siteanalytics snapshot which compares usage of Facebook and Twitter,  it you want to make inappropriate comparisons, it’s Twitter which fares badly.

Facebook and Twitter Usage

Making these points, I should add that we shouldn’t explore the potential of Facebook uncritically. But the early adopters do acknowledge some of the concerns which need to be recognised. Dawson et al have commented that “There are, however, a variety of potential pitfalls with social networking sites. One concern is whether such sites are a fad or flash in the pan“. The paper goes on to add “Issues of privacy are another important factor. Users of social networking sites appear to be willing to live with great compromises in their privacy. However, even these broad boundaries have been tested a number of times. Facebook, for example, has risked alienating its users in controversies such as the introduction of the news feed in 2006 (boyd, 2006a), and the more recent introduction of the “Beacon” in 2007 (Hirsh, 2007).

So let’s be realistic and continue the experimentation and debate. But let’s also be critical of our preferred environments.  And although I’m a happy user of Twitter and participated in its use at MW2008, looking at the hashtag data for the mw2008 tag I would acknowledge that it was used primarily by a small group who knew each other – and indeed went out drinking together.  Twitter can be useful for some – but it’s not necessarily the killer application for everybody.

Posted in Events, Facebook, Social Networking, Twitter | Tagged: , , | 7 Comments »

Facebook Is Getting Better

Posted by Brian Kelly on 2 Jan 2008

Whisper it, but has anybody noticed the various developments to Facebook which seems to be making it a better environment to work in?

There have been developments to the user interface, such as the Facebook status no longer has to start with “Brian is …” and messages delivered via email now contain the contents of the message, and not just the URI you have to go to in order to read the message.  Simple developments, but much welcomed by many Facebook users, I suspect.

It is also pleasing to see serious service providers providing access to their services through Facebook – just before Christmas, for example, Lorcan Dempsey commented on the availability of the Worldcat application for Facebook, which is illustrated below.

Worldcat for Facebook

The research community is also engaging with Facebook.  I have recently joined the Facebook: Academic Research group which describes itself as “A group for anyone conducting (or interested in) academic research into Facebook. This includes sociologists, computer scientists, psychologists, information scientists, computer scientists, educators, philosophers, etc.

I also noticed recently that several of my friends had joined The Semantic Web – Benefits, Education & Outreachgroup. I must admit that I was very pleased to see the pragmatic approach which is being taken by many of the Semantic Web evangelists in this group. One message addressed the question “Why create a facebook group to discuss the semantic web?” by suggesting “for the same reason tv shows are advertised on radio and tv schedules are listed in newspapers and magazines. You have to reach out to people where they are if you want to bring them somewhere new.

In this group a thread on Getting FaceBook to open up provided a link to the Facebook Foaf Generator software which has been written by Mathew Rowe, a PhD student at Sheffield University.  The Foaf Generator is “a tool that generates a Foaf file from your Facebook profile, compiled from the information that Facebook has stored about you. It also includes details about your friends, along with geographical placement of your current location or hometown“.

Visualisation of FOAF file created from Facebook dataAs someone who has written a paper which explored the potential of FOAF back in 2004 I was intrigued by the possibility of making my Facebook data available as a FOAF file and then using a FOAF application to view the data. So I installed the application and created a FOAF file of my Facebook contacts. I explored several FOAF viewers before deciding that the Tabulator widget for the Opera Web browser seemed to provide the richest interface, and a screen shot of this is shown. 

What, then, does this show? Well it does seem to be possible to extract data from Facebook and make it available for use by other applications.  

Has the problem of data being trapped within Facebook now been solved? I don’t think so – remember that this is an experimental prototype developed by a PhD student, so there can be no guarantee of the quality of the service or that it will be available on a long term basis. And one simple experiment isn’t enough to explore how sophisticated (or not) the data export capabilities are. Perhaps more interestingly, though, are the ethics of exporting personal data to other applications.  The data I have received from my friends (their photos, contact details, interests, etc.)  has only been made available once we have mutually accepted friendship invitations.  Wouldn’t making a FOAF file of such data openly available infringe the implied privacy settings?   Or to put it another way, although Facebook may be improving, could it become too open?


Posted in Facebook | Tagged: | 9 Comments »

UK Universities On Facebook

Posted by Brian Kelly on 9 Nov 2007

Via a blog post on Michael Stephen’s Tame The Web blog I discovered that organisations can now have a presence in Facebook, which had previously been restricted to individuals.

So which have been the first UK Universities to stake their claim in Facebook? A Facebook search for organisations containing the word ‘university’ revealed (on Friday 9 November 2007) a total of 76 hits which included, in alphabetical order, the following UK Universities: Aston, Cardiff, Kent and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

This raises lost of interesting issues: who set up these pages?; was approval sought?; will there be battles over the ownership of the pages?; what trends will we see over how these pages look and the embedded applications they will provide?; how popular will they be?; will the look-and-feel and history of these pages be preserved?; etc.

It’s just like 1993 and 1994 all over again. Have we learnt from our experiences when we first set up our first organisational Web sites, or are we doomed to repeat the mistakes – and perhaps, as a indication of progress, discover new mistakes that we can make?

And this time, unlike the early 1990s, will it be the marketing people who are keen to establish a presence in this popular social networking service with the techies warning about the dangers of data lock-in and lack of interoperability?

In order to ensure that a record of what one of the first UK University pages in Facebook looked like shortly after this service was launched, here is a screen image of the most active of these pages: the University of Central Lancashire, on 9 November 2007.

UCan page in Facebook (on 9 Nov 2007).

Posted in Facebook | Tagged: | 36 Comments »

Using Facebook To Promote Events

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16 Oct 2007

UKOLN organises many workshops, conferences and other types of events. We also speak at and support events organised by others, including our funders (JISC and MLA) and fellow services, such as CETIS, MIMAS, EDINA and OSS Watch.

How should we most effectively promote our events, so that we maximise the audiences at the events and attract new audiences, whilst minimising the aggravation caused by event spamming. Organisers acknowledge this problem and try to defuse criticisms with the prefix “Apologies for multiple postings” – but there is still a need to ensure that people don’t complain that they never knew an event of interest to them was being held.

I seemed to have erred on the over-cautious side by failing to announce the one-day workshop on “Exploiting The Potential Of Blogs And Social Networks” as widely as I should have done, with at least one speaker informing me that he hadn’t seen the event announced anywhere. I’ve tried to remedy this by some further announcements to email lists, and have kept a record on the event’s news page.

But what can be done beyond email announcements, in a Web 2.0 world? In this case, I have created an event in Facebook which provides details about the workshop (as illustrated below). I have sent an invitation to a small group of my Facebook contacts (avoiding the temptation to spam my Facebook friends who will have no interest in the event). The intention being that my Facebook contacts who I’ve not notified will see that I’ve created this event and, if it’s of interest to them or their colleagues, will then register.

Viral marketing, without the intrusiveness of email, I hope. Anyway, that’s the purpose of this experiment – and your comments are welcome.

Event description in Facebook

And for those of you who have read this far, the one-day workshop will be held at Austin Court, Birmingham on 26th October 2007. The workshop will provide a number of case studies which will describe a variety of ways in which institutions are providing blogs and making use of social networking services, including use of WebCT, Elgg and Facebook. The vent will also provide an insight into the student’s perspective of such tools and then review the challenges institutions will face in providing such services.

Further details, including access to the online booking form is available at

The cost of this 1-day workshop is £85 which includes lunch, coffee, workshop materials and access to the WiFi network.

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Speculation on Microsoft Investment in Facebook

Posted by Brian Kelly on 29 Sep 2007

A Techcrunch article on Microsoft May Invest in Facebook At $10 Billion Valuation was published on 24 September 2007.

James Brown on the RIN Team blog has provided some interesting thoughtson the reasons why Microsoft are willing to invest $300-$500 million for a 5% stake in the company – which would place a valuation on the company of $10 billion.

I was interested in one of the statistics James provided: Facebook has 42 million active users and, in comparison, Spain has a population of 45 million. Is Facebook really, as some have suggested, really a passing fad. Perhaps Spain is, as well :-) And I wonder if, on 4 April 1975, anyone would have predicted the growth in Microsoft and when it stopped being dismissed as a fad?

Posted in Facebook | Tagged: | 11 Comments »