Tag Archives: Facebook

Coding in schools gathers steam, thanks to Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook et al

I began introducing coding to my 5th grade classes this year, and the interest level is truly inspiring. I was planning to up the ante in the next school year. Looks like my timing couldn’t have be better.

Many stories have begun to appear about how Coding is being pulled into the curriculum.

The latter piece (by Matt Richtel, 10, May 2014) weighs in on the pros and cons, especially wondering if there’s something iffy about having big-name backers such as Microsoft and Facebook. The insinuation is that they may have vested interests in this, and not be interested in the bigger picture of inspiring the science in computer science.

That’s being a bit too snarky. After all, the ‘career ready’ jobs that educators talk up so much are in such spaces that the present and future Gates’ and Zuckerbergs will create and nurture. I want these kids to glide into those plum jobs, ten years from now. That the runway is being paved with corporate dollars –and their sweat– is not necessary a bad thing, is it?

Also, teaching students to code is not trying to turn them into over-paid kids working out of a coffee shop. Making computer science a mainstream discipline, not a nice-to-have, is a place to start.

If you really want to know the grand plan of computer science, here is an illuminating document on Computer Science Standards for K-12 by the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA). Some of the points they stress:

  • CS’s role in “logical reasoning, algorithms thinking, and structural problem-solving.”
  • The value of being closely aligned with business people, scientists, artists etc.
  • Teaching students to work ‘cooperatively’ and ‘collaboratively’
  • Teaching ‘Computational thinking’ –from data representation to problem solving

Sounds a lot like Common Core to me. This is what educators in CS have thought through, calling for us to embed these skills as early as Kindergarten. This is not something that grew out of Silicon Valley.

It’s time we put it into practice. The kids are hungry for this!

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Posted by on May 13, 2014 in Education


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The urge to exit Facebook

I’ve begun running into people in the past few months who are wrestling with the idea of cancelling their Facebook accounts.

Are you one of them?

It’s been some seven years since I signed up, and I have to admit it almost feels like I have to hold my nose when I login, now and then. Now and them, meaning a few times a week -down from a few times a day some years back. Hence that post a few weeks back when I wondered if the social network, was more of a faux community.

There seems to be a bigger picture emerging.

As one person I interviewed noted, the land grab to just be seen on Facebook, and that “me-first’ mentality has worn thin. There is too much chest-thumping, too much ‘thought burps’ for some to want to be part of it.

I like to hear what you think of all this, and how you use or ignore. I don’t want to know the obvious: that it’s easy to find long-lost high school friends, and how it makes you feel connected. There are dozens of ways we could do that now.

I like to know:

  1. Have you changed your Facebook activity?
  2. What makes you wince at what people say/post?
  3. Are you using Facebook in some other interesting way?
  4. Are you (or someone you know) contemplating heading for the exits?
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Posted by on January 22, 2014 in Facebook, Social Media


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An evening of “Crosstalk” reveals how people and text interact

No, this is not about Facebook, and how we seemingly interact with text that sometimes seems like a bunch of posturing and talking at cross purposes!

This is about a performance I went to last Saturday at ASU, brought by the School of Arts, Media and Engineering.

crosstalkThe key ‘performance — a semi-choreographed interaction of two women –was to demonstrate how conversations (and text) can ‘make’ people, and their reality. Meaning, how language doesn’t just represent us, but shapes who we are, even while we use it. Here’s how they describe it. The art form:

interrogates these questions (using) 3D infra-red motion tracking, voice acquisition, speech recognition, multi-screen video projection and multi-channel surround sound to create an immersive multimedia environment.

As the dancers move and speak, speech recognition software reveals sentences (and sentence fragments) on two screens at right angles to each other. Then these texts begin to intersect, and create some interesting visual ‘performances’ – dropping off, angling, growing, and interacting with the other person’s texts.

The event was the work of visual artist, Simon Biggs, and composer, Garth Paine, both of whom dabble in the algorithms that work behind the scenes.

Why I found this fascinating was that it is in an oblique way related to my work in Chat Republic, and how our conversations determine our realities. We are, whether we like it or not, immersed in a digital landscape, and what we say to each other lives in a textual sense out there.

One does not have to be steeped in social media to be part of this Web 2.0 world, where much of what we do is cross-referenced by algorithms –when we sign on to purchase something, do a Google search, or leave a comment –that build profiles of us, and builds identities of us.

Just check what Facebook appears to be doing, sneakily boosting your ‘Likes’ when you message someone.

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Posted by on January 13, 2014 in Technology


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Is Facebook a faux community?

Over the Christmas break I’ve had a lot of time to think through some of the social behaviors we accept, and quietly incorporate. Sometimes these are things we once scorned, and never thought possible in our lifetime.

Things like doing a Google search while driving; posting pictures the very second we experience an event (basically experiencing an important moment in our life through a screen, first); checking the status of things that once didn’t matter to us before (“What’s the temperature in DC today?”; What does Times Square on 31st night look like on Facebook –since the TV networks do such a sloppy job of it now).

You get the picture…

My wife and I have also contracted a curious digital illness, FAS. Call it the Facebook Avoidance Syndrome. We don’t check in on a daily basis because it means inviting a lot of useless information into our lives, and worse, making what someone posts the main topic of discussion, rather than real issues near us, and around us. I must admit, these are interesting sidebars, but do we really want to be informed how deep the snow is, or the ingredients of one’s holiday cookies? Is this community?

  • Yesterday our neighbor stopped my wife and wanted to tell us they were moving. “I didn’t want to leave a note on your door to tell you this, he admitted.”
  • Friends dropped in a few days ago to check how I was going. No status updates were required in this old-fashioned practice.
  • While we’ve been more-or-less off the FB grid, the phone has been off the hook

I felt the need to post a short message on Facebook the other day to say this: Going forward in 2014, I would further reduce my Facebook activity. I said I won’t be breathlessly posting the food I consume or the anniversaries I celebrate.

What “activity?” you ask :-) I hardly add content to the Zuckerberg machine. I don’t subscribe to birthday apps, and the likes. But the point was that, if folks needed to reach me, or keep me informed of things, I didn’t want them to assume I knew, just because it was on Facebook.

Many hard-core Facebookers –and I know plenty, have interviewed many– can’t imagine life without it. Some have begun to feel like this is the only way to stay in touch with community. Granted, we have all used Facebook or LinkedIn to discover people from our past, analog communities. They feel as if there is no other way to trade empathy.

I beg to disagree. If all you had is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail.

One of my friends asked me “What this means in a Chat Republic?”

I EXPECTED THIS.  My book dealt a lot about online and virtual communities, so I knew this question would come. I’m sure some of you are shocked I would even take this attitude. If you are, all I could say is re-read the  book’s introduction – “Why don’t we chat?” (If you don’t want to get the book, or borrow it from the library, I’d be happy to send you the chapter.)

Another asked me, why make a public announcement of this? Public announcement? I thought most people assumed our posts were just between friends. Maybe some realize that Facebook goads us into self-publicity, even while giving us the sense that we are engaging in private conversations. Indeed, Facebook’s public-private divide is confusing.

Digital Social networks were intended for communities. Humans weren’t built for the networks. Simply sharing whatever crosses our path –or our camera view finder– does not enrich our community involvement. Over-sharing is indeed a disease. It’s sometimes nice to be in the presence of a community where no one is taking pictures and setting others up for a Facebook post. (Sigh!: It’s an adjustment for me. There are places I go to now, where I don’t carry my SLR, and never, ever use my camera phone.)

It’s nice to avoid faux communities, and be in the presence of real communities.


1. There’s an interesting Carnegie Mellon University study if you are interested, about this very confusion, and how the many changes in Facebook’s privacy policy first reduced how much personal info people shared, and then how it began to rise. 

2. You may actually not see a link to this on Facebook. I don’t intend to post it there. The link between this blog and FB have been disconnected. This blog is obviously a public medium. 

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Posted by on January 3, 2014 in Facebook, Social Media


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New York Times forcing us through Facebook funnel

Updated: 21 April 2012

I’m Ok with funnels for decanting liquids in the kitchen or garage. Media funnels are another matter entirely.

That’s essentially what The New York Times is trying to do with us readers: entice us down the narrow neck into Facebook territory. No thank you!

We’ll never know what the conversations were at the Times in the past few weeks, but it certainly didn’t involve us.

The folks there probably looked at the evidence of how media is now flowing through networks, how people are jumping platforms and thought it was time to send us to Zuckland. Call it Funnelization-meets monetization.

Were they scared we may be sucked in elsewhere?

I don’t buy the ‘newspapers are dead’ argument any more than I think books are dead. (I love my Kindle, but I don’t plan on not reading real books anytime soon.) I grant that I do get plenty of my news updates via social media, but that has never stopped me from picking up a newspaper, tuning into a radio show or watching a non time-shifted television show now and then. The sheer serendipity of discovery using ‘old media’ could never be replaced.

In short, I get sucked in by great content.

The Times and Facebook relationship is not new. It began in 2010, with a new design of the front page. (Explanation by NYT here.) I liked the idea of enabling readers to be able to follow threaded comments and connect via social channels. It was a tough call, to make trusted commentary a feature that was by invitation only. But hey, reputation is always earned!

Starting this week, however, content on is limited to ten articles a month free. Content will still be available via Facebook.

But that’s not the main problem. The Times requires one to link a Facebook account to the Times story to be authorized to comment.  That tantamount ro appointing Facebook as a sort of gatekeeper. An e-verify system for readers. Why Facebook? Why not LinkedIn, amore professional system? Good question. Andrew Rosenthal, the Times’ editorial page editor explains it thus: It’s coming! For now we’re stuck with Facebook.

Maybe it’s not so bad. After all Facebook is now a major authenticator and on ramp to other online properties. But it’s thumbs down for me. I’m not ready to jump into this funnel yet.

Updated: If you have inadvertently linked your Facebook account to the NYT, here’s where you can find the button to uncheck it.


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Posted by on April 19, 2012 in Facebook, Media, Social Media


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What does Big Brother looks like in a post-Jobs world?

Those in marketing have this quaint memory of Apple and its overthrow of those who enforce “information purification directives” in a stifling “garden of pure ideology” (the words spoken by the image of Big Brother on a giant screen).

If it was revolution, it was the triumph of the little guy over big intimidating folks such as IBM, not government.

But what does Big Brother look like today? What would George Orwell have railed about if he wrote about it now?

Few have heard about a program dubbed Einstein –essentially a government surveillance program. Details are understandably sketchy. It was set up for network security of government properties, but aslso to conduct surveillance, to look for the bad guys. Einstein came to be in 2009 as an early warning system, and was described this way:

Developed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Einstein software provides real-time monitoring and analysis of Internet traffic flowing in and out of federal agency networks. 

There is more here, and here. You would expect governments to get with the program and be vigilant on who’s accessing an intending to compromise their networks. I would be upset if they aren’t.

But then, with the ability to monitor social networking,  it gets more complicated. It is one close hop from monitoring who’s clicking on links and from where they are arriving on, say a Federal web site, to doing real-time surveillance of those people via their social networks. It’s also so easy to do. Easy to eavesdrop on a Skype call, or drop in on a Facebook user and check on the frequency of exchanges with a particular person, and do some data-mining based on that user’s friends, photos, interests…

Sounds like the cloak and dagger stuff in the movies? Think again. Two years ago, the Boston Globe reported on social media savvy undercover cops, and in another case, AT&T was sued for helping the government intercept phone calls. Today Facebook is being drawn into this debate about how much we should share, and what it “knows” about us, with one researcher alleging that it could track you even if you have logged out of Facebook.

Somehow I am not shocked, or worried about this. That’s the Faustian bargain we make when we use these services, many of which come at no cost to us. I’ve made the case before that the disease of over-sharing, and our need to communicate with our friends-of-friends-of-friends every moment and minutae of our lives invites this.

We could of course turn these off, or do something else: provide information that would confuse the heck out of anyone watching over our keystrokes. There’s a line in the 1984 commercial that shows us how, and how we could talk them “bury them with their own confusion.”

Go ahead, poke Big Brother in his eye!

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Posted by on October 10, 2011 in Social Media


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Top 2 PR Crises of 2010 involve taking eye off social media

What were the top-5 PR nightmares that got you fired up, or made you realize that social media is playing a bigger role in our reputation systems, marketing strategy, and media presence?

There have been just too many mis-steps this year, but here are my top two.

But… why stop at two stories? Here are some other categories that 2010 will be remembered for.

As for the best of, here’s the one campaign we could learn from:

And for the Evergreen PR Issues of 2010, I have two strong contenders:

Most Overblown story of 2010

Media Foot-In-Mouth Stories

Why was it that this year saw so many ‘name brand’ media people get into trouble? I was personally shocked

  • When NPR sacked Juan Williams. No one really knows what’s hidden in the code words it used when NPR stated that William’s comments were “inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”
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Posted by on December 29, 2010 in Social Media


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Entrepreneurship isn’t a formula: 3 lessons from The Social Network

As I was visiting the Cambridge area in Boston, ten days ago, where’s The Social Network was set, a Harvard grad friend who hadn’t still seen it mentioned that the movie was sold out that evening: Harvard students had apparently bought up all the tickets!

It made me reflect on what such a traditional setting, steeped in centuries-old tradition and architecture, had played in bringing about the huge shift in social networking as we know it today.

The simplistic answer is in David Kirkpatrick’s book and in the movie version: Mark Zuckerberg, he suggests was sticking his finger at the authorities who had been stalling on a version of a college network comprising faces of students and their contact information.

Less than a month after Mark Zuckerberg launched the early version of his Facebook (then he called it The Facebook), Harvard authorities were still scrambling. They had had their no-frills ‘facebook’ online since 1996, but it was nothing more than a contact list. Kevin S. Davis, then Dir. of Residential Computing  noted that they were working on their new faceboook.

“We’ve been in touch with the Undergraduate Council, and this is a very high priority for the College. We have every intention of completing the facebook by the end of the spring semester.”

But the world was not going to wait a few months for the perfect online social application.

Zuckerberg quickly learned –or perhaps was smart enough to decode human behavior — that people were ready to make a big leap into social sharing. Digital generations had prepared the ground for an experience of social trust, notwithstanding so many privacy issues.

In The Social Network (Mark’s story set within a boring board investigation that’s probably highly dramatized) the people in charge at Harvard, including those in IT, are ticked off. This guy doesn’t conform! He’s hacking tradition!

Isn’t this very familiar? Every organization welcomes a new hire by some sort of on-boarding employee experience, just to ensure  some conformity. There are traditions to uphold. Mission statements to memorize. Then you are asked to go forth and be creative –within the boundaries, of course! Entrepreneurs don’t work that way, it appears.

I was immediately struck by how Zuckerberg’s story is a parable for entrepreneurship. On our radio show, we talk to a lot of these kinds of people; the common thread seems to be the fact that they have dared step out of the boundary that others drew for them.

Having said that, these are the three lessons I derived from the movie about Facebook.

1. Cultivate a huge appetite for empathizing with  what people need. We set up a lot of feedback mechanisms that deliver great insights into what people want to tell us But what about something they don’t articulate? In one moment in the movie, when Mark’s friend asks him if he knows if a girl is ‘available’ or not, he retorts something to the effect of ‘people don’t go about with a sign saying they are single.’ he then rushes back to his laptop and codes Facebook to include that feature, and pretty much says it is now ready for launch!

2. Be comfortable with making mistakes. There is no perfect solution. Mark tells his friend that  nothing is ever complete. In real life he was reported to have said (of Facemash, his web site that let students rate others on their ‘hotness’), “I understood that some parts were still a little sketchy.” It’s easy to scoff at this. He probably knew that there would be many iterations before his idea really took off, but (unlike the Harvard authorities) he was not waiting for all the chips to fall into place. His mistake got him into big trouble, but paved the way for a better idea!

3. Intellectual capital beats money. There is a video of an interview about the shoe-string startup, where Zuckerberg reveals that he had run the site for just $85 a month, renting computers for the first three months. In the movie, and in interviews with the student paper he shows disinterest in the money he would make through advertising. His co-founder, Eduardo Saverin has said this: “Intellectual capital, and not just monetary capital, will spawn the next great product or idea.”

The book makes another point, almost in passing. The Facebook was launched at a crucial moment in the life of students at Harvard: they were registering for classes that week, and Zuckerberg knew that many signed up for classes based on knowing who else was in that class. The Facebook provided that insight, just as today’s version of social networks provide those key insights that make them so valuable.

The authorities had the data. The entrepreneur had the insight. That’s what made his creation priceless.


Posted by on October 18, 2010 in Facebook, Social Media


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Egg on its Facebook, why doesn’t Zuckerberg learn?

The moment I heard Mark Zuckerberg say things like “When people have control over what they share, they are comfortable sharing more,” I knew that (a) I had heard it before and (b) this was a desperate to distance Facebook from the keyword “privacy” to the other seven-letter keyword, “sharing.”

He has said that “The key here is that we always listen to what people say and the data.”
: “we are always being forced to respond to react to the outcry.”

In his state of the backlash address yesterday (video) he spoke of his belief in a more connected, world powered by sharing. Hard to fault him on that.

But you can sense that this 26 year old idealistic web visionary  (who was only nine years old when the first Web browser arrived on the scene) has not quite understood the true human motivations that make his application so popular. He and his team may have a critical feel for the market forces they are engaging, but they are constantly misjudging the people who populate Facebook.

  • Check some earlier problems here (the EU was upset then)
  • And here (remember Beacon?) and here.

Almost every Facebook user I speak to (friends, clients and colleagues) admit they have no clue as to how to tweak the convoluted privacy filter settings.

Three years ago a security firm, Sophos, warned of how too much sharing would backfire. They did that again last year. They found that the sharing gene in people lets them give away too much information.

By invoking what he called the “simple master switch” Zuckerberg is trying to woo users by saying that they will be more in control. He has also said that:

“The trust you place in us as a safe place to share information is the most important part of what makes Facebook work.”

Where have I heard this before?

Zuckerberg didn’t say it yesterday. He said this in February 2009!

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Posted by on May 27, 2010 in Facebook, Social Media


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Quotes for the week ending 24 April, 2010

“But it’s when you become the punch line on The Colbert Report that you know you’ve made the big time.”

Bill Goodykoontz, columnist at the Arizona Republic, commenting on Stephen Colbert’s ripping of Arizona’s new immigration bill –that was signed by governor Jan Brewer into law on Friday.

“facebook seems to be down – mass suicides worldwide predicted – story at 11″

Tweet by mmelnick, (musician, vegetarian, animal lover, truth seeker) who also re-tweeted “Attention humans: Facebook isn’t “down”. It’s become self-aware & will soon launch nuclear weapons. I’m pressing the “Lik …”

“Trees are a renewable resource, and paper can be recycled, recovered and used to make paper again. … Make print a valuable part of your communications mix.”

The argument behind Print Grows Trees, a campaign by Print Graphics Association Mid Atlantic (PGAMA) a not-for-profit trade association

“…uncomfortably close to advocating sexting”

The creepy Kin video ad that Microsoft had to pull for obvious reasons

“I think smaller- and medium-sized agencies make the transition from traditional to social-enabled PR much easier than larger agencies.”

Jason Baer, in a Twintervirw with Bob Reed of PRSA, where he also talked about ‘the science and math of social media.’


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