Can privacy and problem solving go hand in hand?

Week 5:
Analyse critically the following statement by Mark Zuckerberg while comparing it to privacy issues raised by online social networking collaborative practices:

Here’s a short clip by Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of social networking site, Facebook.
(video can’t be embedded. Click on the link to view it!)

In the clip, he points out that
1) People tend to share more when they feel that they have control over what they share.
2) By limiting the sharing, the world becomes more connected
3) Problems faced by people would be easier to solve.

His rationale: There may be many people who face similar problems. When they share it, there is awareness, and people are able to brainstorm, and help solve the problems.

Gif Bin

Credits to lucario515

How does that work? How are we being more connected with the world, when we only allow certain people to view whatever we post on Facebook? Does this allow the rest of the world to interact with me, or what I said?

The fact is – nothing online is private anymore (Tapscott, 2009). Cached posts, screen shots.. Let’s face it, technology is so advanced, even if the Black Box is crushed, information still can be retrieved.

Here are some statistics. According to Solove (2007), 87.8% of Facebook users reveal their birth date, 39.9% list their phone number, and an astonishing 50.8% of them list their current residence. How are we going private, when we’re putting personal information for the world to see?

How can we ensure that private data online will never be seen by others because of the “privacy controls” we have set?

Like what Joyce Chng said, the whole need to explain privacy settings is indeed ironic. Setting privacy controls do not make a world more open and connected. In fact, privacy controls limit the amount of information being shared with the public.

Numerous times, companies send me emails like these:

(own images used)

So, I shared my email with a certain company, and other companies buy my email and send me those mails? How do these emails help me solve my problems in any way? I do understand that “the Internet” wants to solve my problems, but I’m a little shocked that they’ve predicted the problems I may, or may not face in the future.

In reality, the more you control over what you share on the internet, the less your personal information is spread. Thus, whatever “problems” one may have, it’s hard to get the world to solve it together, because only a few “trusted” people in your social networking site would be able to see the problem.

For those interested in looking at the full-length video (I didn’t just take it out of context), here it is

I admit social networking has helped us:
1) Keep in touch with friends around the world
2) Share views on topics of interest
3) Being able to spread awareness on issues

Point 3 probably has the biggest impact in solving problems, and indeed, it has been one of the more useful tools in social networking. It’s probably what Zuckerberg was referring to. I just don’t get how making your privacy setting to be set as “super restricted” will help you solve problems.

Matt Cohler, Facebook’s former strategy chief once said “Privacy meant it’s a secret, or it’s something that I don’t share with other people” (Tapscott. 2009). However, for the new generation privacy means being able to control what you share with others, not keeping information totally private (Tapscott. 2009). Have definitions changed?

Maybe I’ll ask my 5 friends (I can’t trust the other 600 of them so only 5 can see what I post) on facebook and see if they’re able to solve this problem for me.

Tubechop. 2011, ‘Extract form Mark Zuckerberg on Making Privacy Controls Simple’, Tubechop, viewed 25 April 2011.

Tapscott, D 2009, ‘A generation bathed in Bits’, in S Scott (eds), Grown up digital: How the net generation is changing your world, McGraw Hill, USA, pp. 39 – 69.

Solove, D. (2007) ‘How the Free Flow of Information Liberates and Constrains Us’, in The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor and Privacy on the Internet, New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 17-49.


Are bloggers more effective in informing the public?

A new wave of “journalists” and “editiors” are the bloggers. Bloggers write about anything that is of their personal interest (Leshed & Kaye 2006).

While I agree that bloggers have their own editorial independence, collaborative structure, and merit-based popularity, I don’t necessarily agree that they are more effective in informing the public.

One online political blog with editorial independence in Singapore would be The Temasek Review. Singapore’s newspapers, when concerning politics, would usually have news about the party running the state, People’s Action Party. It has little news coverage regarding the opposition parties, such as Worker’s Party or Reform Party. However, The Temasek Review publishes news about the opposition parties, thus effectively informing the public on what actually goes on behind the political scene. This is important for voters, as they may not be able to receive all information they need to cast a vote during the general election. In this aspect, bloggers then are a more popular choice should the public need to be informed effectively.

Bloggers usually first hear about news from traditional media (Davis 2001). They then form their opinions, and talk about it. Without traditional media, one would not have that much access to current news and information. Furthermore, blogs are started by parties who feel the need to voice their opinions. Because opinions and emotions are usually involved (Leshed & Kaye 2006), and one can’t necessarily inform the public as effectively as they should because their writing is influenced by their thoughts.

Bloggers might not be popular based on merit, but instead on how witty they are. One example would be Hollywood blogger Perez Hilton, known for criticizing celebrities. He has the power to make or break someone else’s reputation. Isn’t it scary that our reputation is ours, yet, our reputation depends on other people to shape it? As Solove (2007) states, our reputation “reflects who we are”, and yet, “it is not solely our own creation”. As readers, we have to make sure that we know both sides of the story. If we just take the blogger’s points and disregard underlying issues, the blogger then has failed to inform the public effectively in any sense then.

Although most online editorials do not have gatekeepers, there are certain laws that prevent one from blogging his/her thoughts that come to mind (Niles 2010). This means that one is still bound to the law while blogging. In this case, the law acts as the invisible gate-keeper, and one might be unable to inform the public of issues that might be seen as sensitive.

Collaborations may also affect the way a blogger writes. The benefits of a sponsored product may be exaggerated just because the products are sponsored. This then does not effectively inform the public about the product itself.

Thus, I do not feel that bloggers are more effective in informing the public just because they may have their own collaborations and editorial independence. Both traditional media and interactive media have their strengths and weaknesses. However, unless we find the right balance, at the end of the day, we will still decide to trust traditional forms of media regarding credible news. It may be slower than the Internet, but it has been around for years, compared to the many blogs available online which may open for a day, and be closed down the next.

Lesheg, G & Kaye, J. J 2006, Understanding How Bloggers Feel: Recognizing Affect in Blog Posts, Montreal, Canada, viewed 26 April 2011,  <;.

Davis, R 2008, A Symbiotic Relationship Between Journalists and Bloggers, President and Fellows of Harvard College, United Kingdom, viewed 26 April 2011, <;.

Niles, R 2010, On the Internet, no one has to be a gatekeeper, but everyone can be, OJR: The Online Journalism Review, California, viewed 26 April 2011,  <;.

Solove, D. (2007) ‘How the Free Flow of Information Liberates and Constrains Us’, in The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor and Privacy on the Internet, New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 17-49.

Pretty and useful

Attribution Some rights reserved by daniel_iversen

This image sums up interactivity on Web 2.0

Mark Zuckerberg’s Comment on Sharing (start at 0:26 – stop at 0:39)

Reliant on technology

2011; everything is readily available online. As they say, “Google is your best friend.” Whatever you’re unsure of, just google! Weirdly, Google is actually a noun. But our usage, well, we’ve changed it into a verb. Back to the point, googling to find answers… When I used to have a problem getting online, I wanted so hard to Google what was wrong with my Internet settings, and how to set it right. Obviously it didn’t work because.. to access Google you need an internet connection. Sigh.

We’re becoming very reliant on technology, especially the internet. Many of us carry blackberries, iPhones, Androids, and other smart phones that allow us to get online using 3G while we’re outside. Whether we’re waiting for the tram to arrive, waiting for our turn in a queue, as long as we have nothing to do, we’ll whip our phones out and fiddle with them. Then I pause and think, what about others who don’t have phones with them? What do they do while commuting from one place to another? After all, a good 40% of the world’s population do not have mobile phones (Yoskowitz 2009). This, however, is a steep decrease, compared to 2002, where 86% of the world’s population did not own a mobile phone (Yoskowitz 2009).

With the amount of applications (apps) for our phones, it’s no wonder we’re always entertained. We can’t sit still doing nothing. The blackberry has over a thousand apps, while the iPhone has over 350,000 apps (kgb answers 2011; Apple 2011). Application genres include games, fashion, entertainment, sports, news, stocks and shares and even the weather.

I guess with all these services at the snap of our fingers, it’s no wonder why we’re so reliant on technology. Part of me feels like detaching myself from technology, no mobile phones when I’m out, no internet when I’m home. Wait, no using the computer to watch videos either. Doubt I’ll be able to do that for a week, but who knows? One day, when everything falls apart, we’ll be forced to live like how we did before technology. We’ll have a hard time adjusting back to it, but I’m pretty sure we’ll do fine when the time comes…

Apple 2011, Apple, California, viewed 24 March 2011, .

Kgb Answers 2011, Kgb, New York, viewed 24 March 2011, .

Yoskowitz, A 2009, AfterDawn, viewed 24 March 2011, .

Tutorial 2+1 – Web 2.0 VS WordPress

Web 2.0 is very much based on “interactivity” and “user-generated information”, unlike its predecessor, Web 1.0. WordPress is a good example which applies the concepts of Web 2.0, specifically those drawn out by Tim O’Reilly.

Customisation – Branching-tree interactivity
Wordpress is simply a platform (and perhaps even classified as a tool) where people can create blogs or microsites easily. To aid commoners like us who are unfamiliar with HTML coding, web hosting, etc., WordPress has provided users with a wide range of “predefined choices” such as a selection of fonts, themes and layouts to allow customisation to our liking. It has also given us “privacy choices” where we can: 1) Make our postings publicly available to everyone 2) Make our postings exclusive to only friends or a selected few 3) Lock our postings to passwords

This is a form of close interactivity between human (us in this case) and computer where we are prompted and presented with choices by the latter and have to make decisions (or give the computer directives) instead of merely being allocated with a standardized template or webpage design.

User-generated information
Writing on your own blog is like writing and editing for Wikipedia – though probably less serious or factual. You are feeding the internet with information about your personal experience, thoughts, life and death situations, etc. The point here is: Blogging sites such as wordpress are fuelled by user-generated information. If no one wants to write or no one wants to read and comment, there would not have been blogs.

Thus, WordPress relies heavily on user-generated information. Apart from blog postings, there are also means for interaction with other users who in turn generate information for your blogs through comments, feedbacks, ratings, etc. Again, the focus is on interactivity, both between human and computer as well as human and human (just as what Web 2.0 was meant to do!)

Value-added services (which increases interaction)
There are too many value-added services (which WordPress provides) than we can name. However, we have chosen a few to discuss here. Firstly, WordPress is not only a blog where people access to read and write. It pulls together a network of sites which can be accessed through this single platform or portal. We particularly see a network of social media outlets available as widgets (based on preferences) to your blogs such as Facebook, Twitter, Meebo, YouTube and Flickr. Thus, you can not only update your blog through postings, but also through video and photo uploads, “tweeting” and facebook updates. In addition, you can also engage in a conversion with your friends while working on your blog through instant messaging.

In addition, blog subscriptions and file sharing are available on WordPress. Therefore, you can form a community or pool of bloggers and documents to be shared with others.

Lastly, WordPress can also be accessed through other devices such as Iphones and Android phones which increases mobility and connectivity.

In all the instances mentioned above, we can conclude that WordPress is providing value-added services that may or may not be directly under their server to promote interactivity between users and outsiders.

Sustainability (WordPress part of the story)
For WordPress, sustainability is not a problem. Personal blogs which are allocated for free help WordPress gain revenue by selling personal information (fed by users when they sign up or write about themselves) and advertising space. More importantly, WordPress sells their platform and services to big corporations who want a network of microsites which is easy to use, manage and track*.

*In Singapore, MediaCorp (Media Corporation) engages with this service to help them manage celebrity and channel blogs.

For Produsers who want empowerment and MORE
Produsers are better known as people who produce for and consume media (in this case, Web). They churn out videos, articles, etc. to publicly air their views or showcase their talents in hope of recognition and support which in turn empowers them. However, as mentioned in lecture, how far can interests bring these produsers? WordPress, alongside many other blogging sites, allow bloggers to engage in commercial activities such as posting on behalf on advertisers. Prominent blog produsers are selected to represent brands and companies to sell their products**. And many of them have taken blogging as their career! Other examples include YouTube singers who eventually get contracted by Itunes to sell their music in digital form or paid subscriptions to access blog contents. All these money-making possibilities make produsge sustainable.

** One such blogger is Xiaxue (who unfortunately uses blogspot):

Done by: Andy Ng, Ng Lye Ee, Charmaine Tai