Sunday, March 25, 2012

For better or worse: Facebook Timeline is here!

Facebook Timeline is here for everybody this week (March 30) …. and for some it will be overwhelming.

As previously noted, this next evolution of Facebook, was not welcomed by all Facebookers, but was going to happen regardless because of the advertising opportunities it presents Facebook. The layout gives FB several prime advertising spots. Look for ads to start showing up soon (if you haven’t seen them already).

There are some things (some good and some otherwise) that Timeline changes about Facebook:

Apps gone wild: Facebook now has more than 3,000 apps that can be added to individual timelines. While this should make Facebook more fun there may be a downside (see the next point). In any case to learn more you can also visit the official Facebook Timeline Apps page.

Apps and privacy: As CNN Money reported on March 23 in Facebook strips 'privacy' from new 'data use' policy explainer a Facebook data policy document intended to make the site's methods more transparent is instead kicking up a fresh firestorm. It clarifies that Facebook's current terms allow apps to tap into all of the information that the app's users have access to.

  "This is a significant acknowledgement that Facebook is focused on data collection, data storage and data sales, because that's where they make their money," says Sarah Downey, a privacy analyst at security software company Abine. "They're more accurately describing what they do." Some 32,000 Facebook members in Germany issued the same one-sentence protest which roughly translated as: "I reject the changes."

Business pages: Timeline for business pages brings a lot of new functionality for business, but also takes away some features that were being abused. For a great summary of these see Adeo Group’s Facebook Timeline Checklist for Your Business Pages. In a nutshell Timeline should give business owners more flexibility and options for customizable content.

Too busy running a business? Business owners may think they don’t have the time to pay attention to Facebook’s evolution, but Forbes recently posted a great report by Mari Smith called Facebook 101 for Busy Business Owners that cuts through a lot of the confusion. This piece will quickly help business owners understand why investing a little time in a Facebook could pay dividends.

If you have just a litle extra time you should read 15 Must Know Tips to Rock Your New Facebook Timeline Business Page by Pam Moore. This is an excellant wrap up on the key things you need to know re Facebook business pages.

And one final warning: Don’t fall for the "Remove Facebook’s Timeline" scam that is now widely circulating. The scams range from getting you to click through to a scam survey to hacking your Facebook profile (so the hackers can spam all your friends). There is no going back to the old Facebook no matter how badly you want to. Read more at: Can you remove Facebook's Timeline feature?

Whether you've adjusted to the new Timeline or are still struggling to make sense of it, some previous posts might help:

Timeline basics: This looks at what the change means and how to clean up your past history on Facebook.

Privacy settings and friends: This examines whether you need to reconsider your definition of a "friend" and helps you re-examine your privacy settings.

Using Friend Lists: This looks at how to manage Friend Lists in two different ways.

Final preparations: A checklist to get ready for Timeline and how to set up regular reminders to check your Facebook privacy settings.

So, what do you think ? Is Timeline a good thing or not-so-much?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Google vs. Human: People should always win

My recent loss of access to all things Google thanks to some hackers has me thinking about what it is Google is and is not.

Some background: In mid-February my Gmail account was hacked (earlier post: I’m in Google Hell: A Cautionary Tale) and it took multiple attempts and 20 days for me to get the account back - minus all my contacts and much of my old mail.

During that time I had no access to Google+, Blogger, Google Docs etc. etc. It got me thinking about Google as a customer-centered company.

The company’s informal corporate slogan "Don't be evil" is so-often-quoted that it leaves the impression that all that Google does is for the good (and by default the good of its users).

However, my recent experience in Google customer hell would tell a different story. That this company has not direct human interface with its customers says two things to me:

1. Google prefers not to deal personally with the very people who make its business success possible

2. Google is run by people who are possibly uncomfortable dealing with people in any way other than electronic means (email, for example).

So, given that, here are some things that happened to me contrasted as what Google did and what a reasonable Human would do:

Google: When I went looking for information after my account was hacked, sent me to the Account Recovery Page. This page invited me to enter my email address to be taken to another page where I could answer a series of questions including some most of us would struggle with (The exact date you opened your Gmail account? The exact date you opened another Google-related account?)
Human: Send people to a page where they can have a live chat with someone who can likely resolve their issue on the spot.

Google: After six business days (not the 3-5 promised) I was asked via email for additional information to prove who I was.
Human: Use a Google search to see what comes up on the person contacting Google. If their Google account is high in the results (as mine was) and that account points straight to my Gmail email address that should be proof enough that I’m who I say I am. But wait, if the Google search turns up dozens of results and all point to me that should also be enough proof.

Google: Has human beings who answer the general customer service number – (650) 623-4000 whose main role seems to be to drive people back to filling out online forms.
Human: Have empowered human beings answering the phone who can actually resolve customer problems.

Being human would seem to be in Google’s best interest since it is humans that use the company’s services, provide the raw material for the business model and will decide today, tomorrow or sometime in the future if they want to be a part of Google’s online ecosystem.

I’m not sure what it means for a corporation to be “human,” but I have a sense it includes putting people and their issues first and living up to the slogan “Don't be evil.”

Related post
I’m in Google Hell: A Cautionary Tale

I’m in Google Hell: A Cautionary Tale

Originally posted Feb. 29, 2012 on Social Media Today because I did not have access to my Blogger account because by Gmail account had been hacked and the password changed.

UPDATE: My Gmail account was returned to me after four attempts by me to do all that Google asked and 20 days of waiting. A follow up blog post will be here soon.

Now to the original post …

You’re breaking my heart Google.

You don’t write.

You don’t call.

Honestly it’s starting to feel like we may have parted ways for good. And truthfully this makes me sad.

At one time I was one of your biggest fans. In media interviews, in classroom lectures and at conferences I would joke that one day the Earth might be called Planet Google.

But, now two weeks have passed since my Gmail account was hacked. I know the exact time too. I was accessing my Gmail from my smartphone at 11:11 a.m. EST on Feb. 15 when I suddenly could not send a reply to an email.

Since that time I’ve done everything you’ve asked: I’ve filled out the Account Recovery form and patiently waited the 3-5 days you said it would take. But it took six days for you to get back to me and that was only a request for more information. I obliged in less than 30 minutes.

Again you told me it might be 3-5 business days. And yet …. A week later here I sit: without my email and without any indication that you even care.

And lest you think I’m some kind of passive-aggressive type who is just meekly sitting around waiting … I did try calling your general customer service number – (650) 623-4000 (press "0" to speak to a live human being who will helpfully tell you there is nothing they can do and be sure to fill out the online Account Recovery form).

So, on the eve of your (Google’s) rollout of its new privacy policy, here in a nutshell is why most of us should reconsider using so many of your (Google services) … or as I call it …

Five Degrees of Google Hell

1. Google’s online customer service is not helpful and it is exceedingly frustrating to navigate. If there were any justice in the world Google’s founders would be sentenced to spend a day trying to figure out how to recover their Gmail accounts.

2. Once your Gmail account is hacked you’ve essentially lost access to all the other connected Google services. Goodbye Google+. So long Google Docs. No Blogger access for you. Etc. etc.

3. Once the hackers have your address they start sending out pleas for money with some bizarre story about you being trapped overseas and in need of money. This sparks a huge round (in my case hundreds) of messages on social media and via the phone to make sure I’m aware my account has been hacked. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the concern, but for two days I was buried while responding to people.

4. Then there are other uses you have inadvertently tied your email to. For example: Want to do your taxes but can’t remember the password for the online service? Oh well can’t request a reminder because, you guessed it, that email will go to the account you cannot access.

5. If you also have a secondary business where the email is forwarded to your Gmail (for convenience) you’re also sunk. Those emails are merrily going to an unavailable account. Why not reset the forwarding? Well you can’t if you don’t have access to both accounts that are tied to, you guessed it, Google.

Basically Google, you have your hooks in too much of my life – something I realized too late.

I once trusted you and believed in you.

Now … On the day before Google rolls out a big shake up in its privacy policies this might be a good time to rethink your dependence on Google and learn from my mistake and avoid Google Hell!