MySpace ready to open up?!

According to TechCrunch it looks as if MySpace are looking to follow Facebook down the route of an open platform for developers.

I can’t say I’m particularly surprised (given the success Facebook’s experienced) but I wonder if this is perhaps too little too late. At the moment MySpace still beats Facebook in the stats and they do have a greater critical mass but in the last few months many of it’s users have switched their allegiance to Facebook and with the networks growing every day I wonder how ready they’ll be to switch back.

For me Facebook offers so much more than MySpace. Aside from the obvious developer tools it has the stickiness that MySpace doesn’t. I can find out what my friends are up to alongside details of my colleagues and peers. Through Facebook I can find out about events I may be interested in, have discussions (in a relatively closed environment) about those events and strengthen my professional networks. Would I be as comfortable doing this on MySpace? I think not.

I think Facebook has a greater appeal for all ages. It has something for everyone. As a Web Developer many of the MySpace profiles make me cringe whereas I know what I’m getting with Facebook – it’s more about the information and the interaction than the layout.

It’s all down to individual preferences at the end of the day but I don’t think MySpace’s announcement will make much difference to Facebooks popularity and my money will still be on Facebook overtaking MySpace as the number one social networking in the not too distant future.

A question of confidence?!

I will be giving a presentation at the IWMW in July entitled “Let the students do the talking…” and in advance of this Brian Kelly (UKOLN) asked me to write a blog post relating to my talk.

When I submitted my abstract back in February I was thinking of social networking and collaborative tools and how these could be utilised within our University from both a marketing and student support perspective. At the time my experiences were very positive and like many others, I was enthused by the buzz surrounding what we label Web 2.0 and excited about what this could mean for us. I still am but a number of recent issues have led me to tread a little more cautiously.

I firmly believe that as a University we should be moving towards user owned technologies. The bulk of our students (and staff) join us with a range of skills and preferences and whilst we still have to do some hand holding, the majority know the services they like to use and engage with so I believe we need to adapt accordingly and allow and encourage their continued use.

  • Use gmail for your email? Use it for your Uni email too.
  • Don’t want to wait for email and prefer IM? Sure no problem, that’s available too.
  • On Facebook? We’ll plug you in through our portal so that you see any changes alongside the key messages we need you to see.

I still believe this is where we need to be but I also know this kind of step change is not be without its problems. Why? Because we loose some of the control. We can’t guarantee gmail’s up-time (although I’d be pretty confident it would work 24/7). We can’t moderate things like Facebook (just look at the outcry caused at Keele) so we potentially loose the power to manage some of the internal issues, without then appearing in the public domain. Naturally that’s a worry for any organisation but is it a big enough worry to prevent us from moving forward? I don’t believe it is.

We have more to gain in terms of a competitive edge by being in these spaces. User owned technologies and collaborative tools in a University environment are niceties at the moment and an added benefit but it won’t be long before they are the expected norm. On the internet word of mouth, user reviews, recommendations etc. are proving more readily available and more popular than our “corporate” offerings so the more we engage with and allow these things the more we can use them to our advantage.

How?! Well going back to my presentation title we let the students do the talking. Put the tools in the hands of the people that use them. Let them decide how to use them, how much/little to engage, what they say, how they say it. If we concentrate on providing the experience we claim to do then (which is what we’re all about) then we should move in this direction with confidence.

Recent posts on Brian’s UK Web Focus blog indicate my thoughts are echoed by others too which is encouraging. So whilst I’m treading carefully I’m still convinced it’s in the right direction…

What does your “net identity” look like?

I have recently been asked to comment on an article for the Liverpool Daily Post which attempts to look at how employers use the web to locate ‘additional’ information about prospective employees. The article entitled “Should you worry about your net worth?” has already been published online and it makes interesting reading.

According to the article “one in five employers now finds information about candidates from the internet” and “over half of who say it will influence their final decision”. It references sites such as MySpace as easy targets for employers to search for and drill down on the more ‘informal’ information about prospective employees.

Whilst I am not surprised that companies are using the web in this way it does leave me thinking about the advice we should be giving to our staff and students. I do encourage the use of social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook and don’t think we can or should be prescriptive about how people should use these but it is worth highlighting this trend from employers and reminding people that should they wish to keep a distinct divide between their personal and private persona – they should ensure this is reflected online.

As Craig Sweeney comments in the article: “The thing to remember is what might make your friends giggle today could come back and haunt you a couple of years down the line when you’re trying to land your dream job.”

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