One of the things I like using our blog for is to address any concerns or questions people have and to set the record straight. A question I’ve seen quite a bit, both via Tweets addressed to us and our support channel, is “Why can’t I find people on Glassboard?”
First of all, I understand why people would want this feature. You join Glassboard, but where are all your friends? It’s what people have come to expect in social networking. It represents a shift in our culture because of Facebook, the expectation that you should be able to find anyone (and anyone can find you!) as long as you know minute details about them.
There are certain features of other social networks, like this element of discovery, that we as a team mulled over but eventually came to the conclusion that it simply does not jive with our approach to privacy in Glassboard.
This reminds me of all the Luddites in my life. My sister, a handful of my best friends, and my parents all do not have access to smart phones. If I need to reach them, I must know their phone number or email address. When we created Glassboard we intended for people to use the app with other people they knew well enough to have their contact information. Unfortunately this means you won’t be able to look up your high school sweetheart unless you’ve stayed in touch!
As it turns out, this wasn’t a matter of wanting to assuage any fears consumers might have regarding their data, but because of increased governmental scrutiny. Another thing that probably caused a big spike in privacy policies is the very public missteps taken by Path and Hipster: apps that uploaded your address book into their system without your express permission. Although this eventually blew over, it turned consumers’ attention to whether or not the apps they were using handled their data properly.
What can we do, in the mobile app development community, to give people more confidence? Here is a dead-simple checklist:
2. Make it easy to find.
3. Make it easy to understand.
In our never-ending quest to talk to every single customer who uses Glassboard, we sometimes come across stories where people are using our service in a new and interesting way, or in a way that we hadn’t thought about before. This story is a little bit of both. Recently we talked to Ted Kasten, the CEO of Advanced Sports Media (the company behind ESPN’s Draft Analyzer software) about how they are using Glassboard to help with customer support.
To understand how they are using Glassboard, we first need to understand the context of how they are using it. The Fantasy Football Draft season is very short, lasting about two months leading up to the beginning of the NFL season. As Ted puts it, “The good news is that Draft Analyzer is a must-have for people putting together their Fantasy Football teams. The bad news is that they are doing it all at the same time.” During the peak sales season there are literally thousands of questions that come in at all hours of the day, especially nights and weekends when customers are at home. To handle the load, ASM hires several people in different time zones to answer the onslaught of feedback.
Ted and his team use an internal ticketing system to help manage support cases — but this system doesn’t provide for ad hoc questions for internal escalation: “It provides only a partial solution for us and actually ends up increasing our workloads as we spend more time managing the tickets than our customers.” And while ASM does their best to train their support people, there are always questions or situations that need escalation to the rest of the team. Many times it’s just a quick, “what do I do here,” but sometimes the escalation needs higher level customer service. As a result, ASM needed a system that could enable a fluid, ongoing dialog with the others on the team, or as Ted puts it, “a system that would make the dialog as fluent as if we were all in the same room at the same time.”
In the past, the company relied on email, but it wasn’t ideal. Of the many reasons why email doesn’t work, the most important is that email does not support the urgency or the focus needed to answer the escalations. Email also does not provide a central location for others to review, so when new employees came in there was no history to learn from. “We quickly became buried under hundreds of saved email threads from numerous recipients answering slightly different versions of the same questions.”
ASM also looked into chat services, but that required everyone to be online at the same time, so it was a non-starter. ASM needed an asynchronous communications service.
To make matters more difficult, all of the employees were off-site, so they needed a service that was cloud-based. And because of the nature of escalations on nights and weekends, they needed a system that could be easily accessed both from the web as well as from mobile devices, so that no matter where other team members were, they could be kept in the loop. “If a customer needs help for their fantasy football draft in a few hours or their money back, I need to get the answer to the support team immediately, not in a few hours when I check my email again. The Glassboard mobile app notifies me of the issue and I can respond as easily as replying to a text message.”
We’re honored that ASM has chosen Glassboard! Do you have an interesting way that you’re using Glassboard? Tell us about it! email@example.com
Number of steps for Facebook privacy settings: 12. Number of steps for Glassboard privacy settings: 0.
This article from Business Insider outlines each of 12 steps you need to work through in order to have complete control over your privacy settings in Facebook. It’s obviously a complicated process, so much so that Consumer Reports refers to it as “labyrinthian.”
Who wants to take the time to do all that? It’s unfortunate that guarding your privacy has become so intricate.
Now is a great time to remind all of you that Glassboard has zero privacy settings. It is private all of the time.
That’s 20 hours a month. Reading boring legalese. You would need to take 30 days off of work a year! I’m sure your boss won’t mind.
If we look at other things that are time consuming, I’m sure we can cut some of them out of our lives to make room for all this reading.
- We spend about 150 hours a month watching TV. Why not cut some of that out? You could blaze through 900 privacy policies!
- The average American spends 8 hours a month on Facebook. That’s an entire work day, or about 48 privacy policies read.
What else could we do for 20 hours in a month instead of reading privacy policies? You could:
- Listen to that one Gotye song 300 times!
- Watch every Harry Potter movie and still have 14 minutes to spare!
- Drive from Denver to Tijuana!
There was an astounding amount of backlash against the Girls Around Me app, and rightfully so. The app developers argued that since they were using public information they weren’t doing anything wrong. Women were indeed sharing their locations publicly and weren’t practicing due diligence. But just because the information is out there, doesn’t mean it should be aggregated in such a sexist way.
Why is that app sexist and not just creepy? Because the developer explains that the purpose of the app was to find hot women around you. And here I thought it was just so you could avoid sausage fests.
This is where Foursquare drew the line and revoked access to their API. Girls Around Me attempted to shift the purpose of location sharing from innocuous check-ins to potential targets of stalking. Facebook’s reaction? They advised people to adjust their privacy settings.
Obviously app makers have some responsibility for protecting their users, but some of the burden is shouldered by users. People do care about privacy but I know they’re probably like me and can be lazy about policing it. There are essentially three options for location sharing:
a. Be extra diligent with privacy settings in the multitude of apps that you use, ensuring that settings are exactly what they should be and reviewing these settings any time the app developers makes changes.
b. Don’t post your location on the Internet, EVER
c. Use Glassboard and not worry about it. Only people that are members of a board can see your location.
Collusion is an add-on for Firefox that shows you what sites are following you (i.e., they put cookies in your browser to keep track of what you’re visiting so they can show targeted ads to you!).
It’s a pretty neat concept, mostly because it can help you visualize just how much these websites know about you. From the Collusion demo: “It’s quite likely that these companies know more about you than your government. Some of them might even know more about you than your best friends.”
How creepy is that?
I started at IMDB.com because I’m a massive movie snob. Oh, look! I have some followers!
I then clicked through to three articles that interested me:
- Snow White Rising: Why This Princess, And Why This Moment? The title reminded me of Batman. I picture Snow White standing on the edge of a skyscraper, cape billowing in the wind. Gruff voice-over.
- These Movies From 1992 Are All 20 Years Old. Because now that I’m 30 I need to constantly remind myself how ooooold I am.
- Our 50 favorite film fools. I just clicked the link to make sure Peter Sellers’ character from Being There was on the list. Number 3 spot. Not bad!
A bunch more trackers popped up. I’m feeling popular.
Next I hit up Wired.com. Not much in the way of additions to my trackers. Reddit and crwdcntrl.net are now tracking me.
What surprised me was when I visited occasionalcar.com (a Denver car share service that I use). This added Yahoo, Twitter, and Facebook cookies. They have Facebook and Twitter integrated onto their site, but it’s odd to look at the Collusion graph and have it tell me “When you visit occasionalcar.com, it informs the following websites about you.”
Collusion is an interesting experiment. I encourage you to give it a try, just to see how quickly your actions on the web garner ad tracking. After all, I’m not paying for anything when I visit these sites, I’m “the product being sold.”
Finally, I suggest you start using TrackerBlock if you don’t want all those cookies following you around!
The culture of photography has changed so very much in less than a decade. Photography is ubiquitous. Everyone with a smartphone has a digital camera now. People joke about tagging embarrassing photos of each other on Facebook, and more often than not, they are NOT afraid to do it. Unfortunately what this means is that control over your online identity isn’t entirely in your hands.
Statute of limitations for photos
Somewhere along the line we got used to it, and tagging your friends on Facebook evolved a sort of etiquette. This article from Read Write Web does a terrific job of pointing out where it can still go wrong. Photos taken at a time in your life when you didn’t have to worry about them turning up on the internet can still appear, thanks to the ability to scan and tag older photos.
Facebook Timeline can help solve this somewhat by adding context to photos, but that doesn’t get rid of the fact that there is a photograph of you chugging from a beer bong wearing that “I support single moms” t-shirt when you were in college.
The first rule of a duct tape themed party…
There was a certain party years ago, before Facebook and MySpace were popular, that got a little crazy. I dressed up as Paul Stanley from KISS, outfit made completely out of duct tape. We partied with reckless abandon and there were photos being taken, but it was still a time when you didn’t have to worry about them showing up on the interenet.
Don’t get me wrong, the photos weren’t terribly compromising but they sure as hell weren’t all that flattering. We weren’t using digital cameras so we wouldn’t be able to check to see if the photo needed to be retaken.
Pull the trigger
Years later the photos showed up on MySpace and I was more than a little surprised at how embarrassed I was. I mean, look! I’m drinking Bud Light.
If that party had taken place nowadays, I’d be more than happy to share our revelries with an intended group of people via Glassboard. I may be a classy broad now, but college was another thing entirely. I don’t need my Love Gun plastered all over the internet, thank you very much.
What is good privacy hygiene?
This is the question that was posed to a number of prolific tech people in an article from NPR.org.
The opinions range from pessimism (“…it’s a losing battle.”) to acceptance (“…socially, we’re more used to sharing pictures, stories about our vacations, our music.”). One thing that is true across the board is how downright confusing and difficult it is to maintain a consistent level of privacy across all forms of social media.
Is it simply not normal anymore to expect privacy from social networks? For this reason I’m almost reluctant to refer to Glassboard as a social application. The definition of “social” has changed so dramatically it seems to insinuate that by posting on Glassboard you are broadcasting to a much larger group. When I think of “social” in the Glassboard world, I think of a room with a closed door. I can see every individual in the room. Can you envision that within Facebook or Google+? Privacy is indeed complicated and the rules are always changing. I think I can simplify things for you with this diagram (click to embiggen):
As you can see, with Glassboard it’s very distinct to whom things get communicated. With other social networks your messages can reverberate through many channels. Perhaps even to Kevin Bacon (not that that’s a bad thing).
There is no doubt that there is diminishing privacy in the realm of social communication. This isn’t to say that people are shouting their innermost secrets from the rooftops, it’s simply that we’re being conditioned to share more over our various social networks. I see the line blurring on what is acceptable to share with others. Broadcast your location? Ok. Share a baby picture on Facebook? Sure, why not? How about your full name? Phone number? When does it go to far?
In this article on Tech Crunch, John Biggs calls out Highlight for egregiously exposing his contact information.
It’s interesting to see the backlash against apps that overshare or collect data without your permission. For Biggs it wasn’t because Highlight showed his phone number to 140 strangers, it’s that he recognizes this sort of behavior as a symptom of the overall erosion of privacy. What’s even more interesting to see is that for the most part, people are just going along with all of it despite claiming that they care about privacy.
Biggs goes on to explain, “I have no right to expect privacy if I don’t police my own actions and the vast majority of us are too lazy, too flip, or too ignorant to follow through, myself included.”
It’s true. I’m the same way. But at least with Glassboard you can have a means of social communication without the risk of oversharing.