OUseful.Info, the blog…

Trying to find useful things to do with emerging technologies in open education

Posts Tagged ‘Facebook

Keeping Up with Facebook Privacy Changes (Again)

Although on a day to day basis I’m a Mac user, every so often I need to dip into the Windows virtual machine on my laptop. This generally fills me with fear and trepidation, because as an infrequent Windows user, whenever I do go over to the dark side I know my internet connection will grind to a halt and I will get regular requests to restart the machine as Windows goes into update mode. In a similar vein, on a day to day basis it’s Twitter that meets my social web needs. But on the rare occasions I go into Facebook, I’m also filled with dread. Why? Because there is frequently a new privacy minefield to negotiate (e.g. Keeping Your Facebook Updates Private).

Over the last few days, there’s been a Facebook developers conference, so I thought it worth checking in to see what new horrors have been released; and here’s what I saw today:

Hmm…

So Facebook makes it easy for website owners to help you “tweet” a link to your Facebook stream… (I wonder, does this also work as a social bookmarking service? Can I browse through the links I’ve Liked?

Ah – according to Deceiving Users with the Facebook Like Button, it appears that “Removing the feed item from your newsfeed does not remove your like — it stays in your profile. You have to click the button again to remove the ‘Like’ relationship.” So it could be used as a social bookmarking service, of a sort. Or at least a Facebook equivalent to “favorited” websites in your browser.

As you might have guessed from the previously linked to post, all may not (yet) be well with the Liked implementation though – because it seems that it’s possible to add a “Like” link on one page that actually Likes a page on another website. Which reminds me a little of phishing

So, what other goodness (?!) does Facebook have in store for us?

Instant personalisation, hmm…? So if I go to Pandora, say, it can trawl my Facebook profile, decide from my Likes and updates that I’m a goth hippy groover, and generate a personalised radio station for me jus’ like that? The oo’s have it… (ooh…, cool… or spooky…?;-)

And guess what, Facebook have thoughtfully opted me in to that service, without me having to do anything, and without even forcing me to notice (I didn’t have to follow the link on the home page to read the new service announcement; and for mobile users, I wonder if any of the Facebook apps tell the users that they’ve been opted in to this new way of giving their personal data to third parties…?)

I think I’ll click here:

I think I’ll untick…

Am I sure…? Err, yes… Confirm.

But what does this mean…?

Please keep in mind that if you opt out, your friends may still share public Facebook information about you to personalize their experience on these partner sites unless you block the application.

Hmmm, I think I’ll Learn More… (do you ever get the feeling you’ve ended up in one of those Create Your Own Adventure style games, only for real… Is this Brazil, or a Trial?

Err, right…

I guess this is the one:

What data is shared with instantly personalized partner sites?
When you and your friends visit an instantly personalized site, the partner can use your public Facebook information, which includes your name, profile picture, gender, and connections. To access any non-public information, the website is required to ask for you or your friend’s explicit permission.

Or is that “When you or your friends visit…”? That is, if my friend visits Pandora and goes for instant personalisation, can Pandora use my friend as a vector to grab my public information? A question that now follows is – can Pandora identify my Facebook identity through some mechanism or other (e.g. Facebook set cookies?) and reconcile that with what it has learned about me from my friends who have opted in to personlisation features. And if so, could it then offer me personalisation services anyway, even though I opted out on Facebook…?

I’m still unticking… because as Facebook adds partners, I probably won’t pick up on it…

So, do I dare walk up the Facebook Privacy tree…? Let’s go up to the Privacy Setting page:

So here’s the Profile Settings control panel:

Hmmm… there’s a link there to Application Settings, which I don’t think appears on the Privacy settings page. Where does it go?

I’m not sure I understand everything in that drop down menu…?

How about the Contact settings?

Search?

Blocking?

Sheesh.. So here are the tabs that I have to work through:

Many of the pages only require setting a simple drop down box (though thinking through the implications, and what relates to what may be comples); but there are also quite a few that offer “Edit Settings…” links, and I suspect that some of those open up into rather more involved dialogues…

I reckon you could easily spend at least 1 week/10 hours of a 10 point short course just looking at Facebook privacy settings, and trying to think through what the implications are…

Which brings to mind the Facebook network visulisation I started working on with Gephi… Could we use visualisation tools to highlight who in your Facebook network can see what given your current privacy settings? Methinks there’s an app in that…

PS popping back in to Facebook just now to delete most of the apps I’m signed up to, I noticed on the “click here” page linked to above the option:

What your friends can share about you
Control what your friends can share about you when using applications and websites

Clicking through to Edit Settings, here’s what I see:

[Since grabbing that screenshot, I've unchecked all those boxes...]

I’ll spell out the text for you:

What your friends can share about you through applications and websites

When your friend visits a Facebook-enhanced application or website, they may want to share certain information to make the experience more social. For example, a greeting card application may use your birthday information to prompt your friend to send a card

If your friend uses an application that you do not use, you can control what types of information the application can access. Please note that applications will always be able to access your publicly available information (Name, Profile Picture, Gender, Current City, Networks, Friend List, and Pages) and information that is visible to Everyone

So… if i don’t take steps to protect my information, then my friends can give access to my presence, videos, links, photos, videos and photos and tagged in, my birthday, hometown etc etc to third party applications? Does that mean if I have various privacy settings set to share with friends only, they can still share the information on to third parties I did not anticipate seeing the data?

In the following set up, who can see photos and videos of me?

Answers in the comments please… If anyone’s done the experiments to see just how the various previous setting inter-relate, I’d love to see a write-up. I’m also thinking: maybe Facebook should be required to publish a logical model of what’s going on? (Are there logics of privacy? You could probably get somewhere close using epistemic logic?)

(It’s all a bit like writing legislation that says that as yet unspecified powers will be given to a Minister, who may then devolve those powers to others…;-)

PPS a page I didn’t link to/show a screengrab of but should have included is the Applications page (this is not under the privacy settings. You can find it here: http://www.facebook.com/#!/editapps.php?v=allowed

If you don’t use an app, particularly an external one, I suggest you delete it…

[UPDATE: Why I Joined the Facebook Privacy Changes Backlash...]

Written by Tony Hirst

April 23, 2010 at 8:47 am

Posted in Anything you want

Tagged with ,

Getting Started With The Gephi Network Visualisation App – My Facebook Network, Part I

A couple of weeks ago, I came across Gephi, a desktop application for visualising networks.

And quite by chance, a day or two after I was asked about any tools I knew of that could visualise and help analyse social network activity around an OU course… which I take as a reasonable justification for exploring exactly what Gephi can do :-)

So, after a few false starts, here’s what I’ve learned so far…

First up, we need to get some graph data – netvizz – facebook to gephi suggests that the netvizz facebook app can be used to grab a copy of your Facebook network in a format that Gephi understands, so I installed the app, downloaded my network file, and then uninstalled the app… (can’t be too careful ;-)

Once Gephi is launched (and updated, if it’s a new download – you’ll see an updates prompt in the status bar along the bottom of the Gephi window, right hand side) Open… the network file you downloaded.

NB I think the graph should probably be loaded as an undirected graph… That is, if A connects to B, B connects to A. But I’m committed to the directed version in this case, so we’ll stick with it… (The directed version would make sense for a Twitter network (which has an asymmetric friending model), where A may follow B, but B might choose not to follow A. In Facebook, friending is symmetric – A can only friend B if B friends A.

(Btw, I’ve come across a few gotchas using Gephi so far, including losing the window layout shown above. Playing with the Reset Windows from the Windows menu sometimes helps… There may be an easier way, but I haven’t found it yet…)

The graph window gives a preview of the network – in this case, the nodes are people and the edges show that one person is following another. (Remember, I should have loaded this as an undirected graph. The directed edges are just an artefact of the way the edge list that states who is connected to whom was generated by netvizz.)

Using the scroll wheel on a mouse (or two finger push on my Mac mousepad), you can zoom in and out of the network in the graph view. You can also move nodes around, view the labels, switch the edges on and off off, and recenter the view.

Not shown – but possible – is deleting nodes from the graph, as well as editing their properties.

You can also generate views of the graph that show information about the network. In the Ranking panel, if you select the Nodes tab, set the option to Degree (the number of edges/connections attached to a node) and then choose the node size button (the jewel), you can set the size of the node to be proportional to the number of connections. Tune the min and max sizes as required, then hit apply:

You can also colour the nodes according to properties:

So for example, we might get something like this:

Label size and colour can also be proportional to node attributes:

To view the labels, make sure you click on the Text labels option at the bottom of the graph panel. You may also need to tweak the label size slider that’s also on the bottom of the panel.

If you want to generate a pretty version of the graph, you need to do a couple of things. Firstly, in the layout panel, select a layout algorithm. Force Atlas is the one that the original tutorial recommends. The repulsion strength determines how dispersed the final graph will be (i.e. it sets the “repulsive force” between nodes); I set a value of 2000, but feel free to play:

When you hit Run, the button label will change to Stop and the graph should start to move and reorganise itself. Hit Stop when the graph looks a little better laid out. Remember, you can also move nodes around in the graph as show in the video above.

Having run the Layout routine, we can now generate a pretty view of the graph. In the Preview Settings panel on the left-hand side of the Gephi environment, select “Show Labels” and then hit “Refresh”:

In the Preview panel, (next tab along from Preview Settings), you should see a the prettified, 3D layout view:

Note that in this case I haven’t made much attempt at generating a nice layout, for example by moving nodes around in the graph window to better position them, but you can do… (just remember to Refresh the Preview view in the Preview Settings… (There must be a shortcut way of doing that, but I haven’t found it…!:-(

If you want to look at who any particular individual is connected to, you can go to the
Data Table panel (again in the set of panels on the right hand side, just along from the Preview tab panel) and search for people by name. Here, I’m searching the edges to see who of my Facebook friends a certain Martin W is also connected to on Facebook;

It’s easy enough to highlight/select and copy these cells and then post them into a spreadsheet if required.

So that’s step 1 of getting started with Gephi… a way of using it to explore a graph in very general terms; but that’s not where the real fun lies. That starts when you start processing the graph by running statistics and filters over it. But for that, you’ll have to wait for the next post in this series… which is here: Getting Started With Gephi Network Visualisation App – My Facebook Network, Part II: Basic Filters

Written by Tony Hirst

April 16, 2010 at 11:20 am

Posted in Tutorial, Uncourse, Visualisation

Tagged with ,

OU Facebook Apps, Reprise

I was at a meeting yesterday looking at rebooting the OU’s Facebook strategy. With a bit of luck, this means that we’ll be doing another push on the OU Facebook apps that were developed several years ago now and which I still believe provide a sound basis for a range of community building and social learning support services (Course Profiles – A Facebook Application for Open University Students and Alumni).

The apps were largely developed out of time and in stolen time, and it seems that things are likely to continue in this way (which is both a plus – freeing us from constraints of interminable committees wanting to plan strategies rather than jfdi, and a minus – @liamgh is the only person we trust with the code which means any maintenance falls to him ;-)

For those who don’t remember the apps we developed, there were two: Course Profiles, which allowed students to declare the courses that had taken were taking and intended to take, and then provided a range of services around that information (find friends on a course, find a study buddy, link to course information or course related OpenLearn resources, get course recommendations); and My OU Story, where students could maintain a “status diary” about their progress on a course, along with a mood indicator so they could track their mood over a course, and other app users could add supportive comments. (I’d be surprised if anyone in the Student Services retention project has even heard about this project, but looking at some of the peer support that has gone on within the context that app, I’d argue it might be contributing to retention…)

Course Profiles quickly attracted several thousand users following the initial push just after it was first launched, so it evidently served a need then that presumably still exists today, i.e. a badging mechansims for celebrating course achievements and declaring future study intentions. One thing that might be worth looking at is the rate at which early adopters of Course Profiles have continued to update it, and report on the extent to which their original “future study” intentions converted to actual course registrations.

There’s also going to be a push on growing the number of fans on the official OU profile page. I’m not sure what plan @stuartbrown has for growing the numbers (for the task appears to have fallen to him…;-) but with a bit of luck the apps as well as the fan page will get highlighted through some of the official communication channels.

We also had a bit of discussion around other potential apps. Something I’d quite like to see would be a gallery app pulling images from the various flickr groups that have popped up around the T189 Digital Photography short course. Alumni of that group are already pretty active, and have just launched their first online exhibition, so if we could provide a channel that increases the audience for their show, and if they’re happy for us to amplify it via an OU Facebook app, that might be quite a fun thing to try as a community building app… (For more about the background to the exhibition, see Inspiring Learners; also see the T189 Graduates’ Exhibition).

(I also wonder if a similar gallery style app might work to showcase some of the games that students on T151 Digital worlds manage to create, all with their permission of course…)

Someone (I forget who) also suggested a “Share on Facebook” button within the gallery environment students use to build their portfolio whilst they take T189 (limited so that sharing was limited to photographs that a student had uploaded themselves, of course). This would amplify a student’s work and progress on a course to their Facebook friends, and provide their friends with a glimpse of what sorts of activities are involved in this particular OU course.

One thing I never even half managed to convince anybody that it was important was the data that was collected by the Course Profiles app in particular, though I did have a go at a few quick’n’dirty takes on this, such as OU Course Profiles Facebook App – Treemaps, Hierarchical Course Clusters from Course Profiles App and Tinkering with Google Charts (which started to consider what a course team dashboard view might look like). I was mulling this over again last night, and the following uses came to mind if we started to reconcile Course Profiles with institutional data (something we were always wary of, but anyway – here’s the thinking…;-)

- predictors and conversion rates: I’m not sure if Liam is logging when/how users change their status updates, but it’d be useful to know what percentage of users are updating their Course Profiles (e.g. from ‘currently taking’ to ‘taken’ courses, or more interestingly ‘intend to take’ to taking) and whether an “intend to take” course declaration is a good predictor of whether students do actually take a course. There’s an obvious quick win here for a possibly intrusive marketing campaign chasing folk who’ve declared an ‘intend to take’ course but don’t appear to have followed up on it;

- predicting course sizes: with several thousand users, does the sample of users on Course Profiles predict future course enrollment numbers? As far as I know, no-one in planning ever came to us asking to peak at our data to explore this. Nor did any more than a couple of Course Chairs ever seem to think it was interesting that we had stated intentions about course pathways, and that for new courses in particular we might be able to spot whether students were signing up for a course based on a pathway the course team was hoping for?

- retention: is the retention rate of students on a course who are on Facebook with Course Profiles and/or My OU Story different to the retention rate across the course as a whole? Does the fact that students who have declared ‘intend to take’ courses on the Course Profile correlate with their likelihood of completing an award?

- course planning and recommendation: on the one hand, courses appear to have natural numbers; on the other, working out what courses to take in what order for a particular degree given various factors (such as courses already taken, course exclusions etc) can be a confusing affair. At the moment, I believe a rule based support tool is being explored to help with course recommendations, but how well do those suggestions compare with a simple clustering based on Course Profiles data?

PS Just in passing, it’s worth noting that as with other groups who’ve used Facebook to mount campaigns against unpopular corporate decisions, OU students are no different… Open University curbs Tesco ‘clubcard degree’ scheme .

Written by Tony Hirst

March 10, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Keeping Your Facebook Updates Private

So it seems as if Facebook is trying to encourage everyone to open up a little, and just share… Ah, bless… I suppose it is getting near to Christmas, after all…

So if you don’t want the world and Google to know everything you’re posting about on Facebook, and you are quite happy with privacy settings as they currently are, thank you very much, here’s what I (think) you need to do… Continue to the next step and change the settings from Everyone:

to Old Settings:

When you hover over the Old Settings radio button, a tooltip should pop up telling you what your current settings are. If anything looks odd, make a note of it so that you can change the setting later.

If you think you’d like to make things available to Everyone, bear in mind these important things to remember:

Information you choose to share with Everyone is available to everyone on the internet.

And when you install an application:

When you visit a Facebook-enhanced application, it will be able to access your publicly available information, which includes Name, Profile Photo, Gender, Current City, Networks, Friend List, and Pages. This information is considered visible to Everyone.

To save the settings, click to do exactly what it says on the button:

If, whilst changing the settings, you noticed that an Old Setting tooltip suggested that your current privacy settings were different to what you thought they were, you’ll need to go in to the Privacy Settings panel, which you can find from the Settings on the toolbar at the top of each Facebook page:

Looking at the actual privacy settings page, there are several menu options that lead to yet more menu options and then screenfuls of different settings…

When I have a spare 2-3 hours, I’ll try to post a summary of them… (unless anyone already knows of a good tutorial on “managing your Facebook privacy settings”?) For now, though, I’m afraid you’re own trying to track down the setting you disagreed with so that you can change it to a setting you do want to have…

Written by Tony Hirst

December 10, 2009 at 10:06 am

Posted in Evilness, Infoskills

Tagged with ,

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