Facebook Privacy

Last week I gave a workshop at the Society of Australian Genealogists Research Library for new Facebook users. There is a lot of interest in Facebook and how it can be used to connect with family and friends, but there is also a lot of concern about privacy.

The biggest issue is the default privacy settings that new users are automatically given. Facebook was designed by college students for college students, and the fact is that this age group are not as concerned with privacy as most of us have learned to be. Facebook has been much in the news lately because users can be too trusting with people they meet on Facebook, and .

To address these concerns Facebook has recently simplified the presentation of the privacy settings. What you see when you go in to the privacy settings [under Account in the top right corner] looks like this if you haven’t changed any of the settings:

Facebook default privacy settingsThis is a summary. When you click on Customize settings you can change all of these settings, in much more detail thank you can see here.

This is what my own settings look like:

Updated privacy settingsThere is some information that Everyone can see, and that’s that. Your name, your photo, your gender and your networks (which are optional) is always visible so that people can find you. Everything else is customisable, from Everyone to Only Me:

  • Everyone
  • Friends of Friends
  • Just Friends
  • Customizable – allows you to choose individual people, lists of people, or Only Me

Of course, there is a balance between what you don’t want people to know about you and what people need to be able to see so they know it’s you. I suspect this balance is different for everyone, depending on what you want from Facebook. If you want to get in contact with people you went to school with all those years ago then it helps them to find you if you put your high school and year of graduation in and make it visible to Everyone. If the very thought fills you with horror, then don’t enter it, or make access more restricted. Professional networking needs employment details, connecting with classmates needs your current school or university, and so on.

I think the problem some of us have with Facebook is that we don’t know enough about how to control it. Once you learn how to make the changes you want it can become an indispensable part of how you communicate with friends and family. I’m pleased to say that some of the students in my class last week have gone on to become confident, active members of Facebook.

Don’t be afraid of Facebook, take control!

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy – Week 23 – Find a Challenge

The challenge this week is:

Come up with a personal genealogy challenge of your own. Each person has different research goals and experiences. Use this week to come up with your own challenge, and then take the steps to accomplish it.

Haha, I thought. that one’s easy! My biggest challenge is finding the time to get everything done that I need to do. So I’ve decided, for the sake of this challenge, to narrow it down.

I don’t seem to find time to read any more. To just sit down with a book and read it. I used to do most of my reading on the train into the city, but these days I tend to do stuff on my netbook computer, which I’ve talked about before, or read research notes or minutes and notes for Council and committee meetings.

I used to always carry a book with me. Always. Now I don’t. If I think I’ll need something to read I might take a family history magazine or journal with me, but usually the netbook is enough to keep me occupied.

How do I read the books I need to read to further my research? There is so much I have to read:

  • books on Australian history
  • books on Fijian history
  • books written by early settlers and sailors in Fiji (usually downloaded from Google Books as PDFs)
  • books on how to find records for family history
  • journals and magazine, which are arriving all the time
  • fiction (we all need some down-time)

Kobo e-readerLast weekend, when I was walking past my local Borders bookstore, I saw the answer. The Kobo is Borders’ answer to Amazon’s Kindle. It’s an e-reader that is cheap ($199 Australian), light, easy to read, and small enough to take anywhere. It does nothing except read books, which is what I want. It reads PDFs as well as e-book formats.

Unfortunately I couldn’t buy one on the spot as they had run out, and were taking pre-orders. I said I’d think about it and went home. I thought about it so much that I rang and pre-ordered it from home. They told me it would be in on the 7th June, which is next Monday.

On Thursday (3rd June) I got a call to say they were in, and I could pick mine up! Woohoo!!! I did. I had a workshop to prepare so I didn’t really get to play with it until yesterday.

I’m already reading more than I ever did before. I’ve started on Dickens’ Great Expectations, which I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never read before, although the story seems strangely familiar. I think that contemporary fiction counts as educational, don’t you? At least I’m not reading Harry Potter!

And I feel much better for it already. Reading is what was missing from my life.

The Kobo is a little slow to change pages, so I’ve already learned to press the button a little ahead so it’s there when I’m ready for the next page. I’m still looking around at what books I can put on there. It came with 100 books already, including Dickens and Jane Austen.

The PDF part is still a bit of a challenge, though. I downloaded two PDF books to experiment. They are:

  • Smythe’s Ten Months in the Fiji Islands, 1864
  • Fanning’s Voyages to the South Seas, 1838

I’ve had success finding ancestors, or potential ancestors, in these sorts of accounts, so I’ve got to keep reading them. Printing and reading takes way too much paper and toner, and I tend not to read them on the laptop, although of course I search them for surnames and places as best I can.

So far reading these PDFs has not been a success. An e-book flows so that no matter what font size you select, the text flows to fit the page. PDFs don’t do this, so there’s a lot of scrolling involved which is too disruptive, even in these old books where the pages are actually quite small. Apparently they are looking at software changes to allow this, but in the meantime scrolling is slow.

So that’s the challenge I need to resolve next, and this is what I’m doing to resolve it:

  • I’m experimenting with zooming in and changing the orientation to landscape, but it’s still slow to get down the page.
  • I’ll experiment with the different page sizes of different documents
  • I’ll look at different formats. Perhaps these books are downloadable as e-books rather than PDFs?
  • I’ll be experimenting with Descent, the journal of the Society of Australian Genealogists, which was published from the beginning of the Society in PDF form. That will save me having to decide before I leave the house which one I’m up to. If I can resolve the PDF issue!

Wish me luck!