Friday, 22 February 2008

Transparency is good

Here's just an add-on to my last post about Facebook. This article of the German journal DIE ZEIT points out the benefits of transparency in a completely other area: taxation. In Sweden, everyone knows what everyone earns and how many taxes they pay for the good of the national community. No hiding and no fear. And as a result more trust into the state and the community.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Don't use Facebook (Part II) - because of privacy issues?

Privacy concerns have accompanied Facebook since its launch in 2004, mostly for legitimate reasons. Undoubtedly everyone has a right and - to variing degrees - a need to privacy and any service provider who ingnores these rights and needs should seriously reconsider his strategy.

However, I would like to shed a different light onto the scenario. Especially in the German media, more and more articles voice a very critical view on social networking in general. Like e.g. my favourite online journal SPIEGEL ONLINE, which has continuously publishes solely critical articles against Facebook & Co (,1518,531000,00.html or,1518,532070,00.html). The critical voices all go into similar directions:
  • If you use social networking sites, publish rather less about yourself
  • Why should anyone connect to so many people online?
  • Why should anyone just tell stuff about himself?
  • It's better not to use social networking sites at all
As you can guess, these statements differ from how I see social networking. Why? For 2 reasons:

1. Transparency is good. It's a sociological rule that the more people know of each other, the more there will be a chance for understanding, respect and peace. Why should I share a lot about myself with a lot of people? Because if everone does, no one would have to hide anything anymore. Ok, that's pretty idealistic, but it shows the point. It's fear of comparison, of rejection, of loosing one's image and status, of loosing love, that keep us from sharing what we think and who we are. And it's this fear that bears greed, rejection and violence. But if everyone shares and receives respect for what he shares, there's no need for fear anymore. That's how every community, every friendship and partnership works. They work because transparency bears trust.

2. Relationship is good. Never has the internet come so close to what the essence of the human being is all about: relationships, which is the whole idea of social online networks. Now of course you can argue that you can have this essence also without Facebook & Co. True. But the thing is that social online networks offer additional opportunities for maintaining, building and creating relationships, especially with people hundreds of kilometers away, which you would otherwise soon loose track of or which you would even never know. Here is a tremendous added value. I have just lately reconnected though Facebook with a dear old friend, which I had lost sight of some 7 years ago. Today we're on the phone again, and that's just great. Thank God for the 'Poke' feature!

Now, I agree there are real issues. One issue is the controvery about private data of e.g. Facebook possibly being sold to third parties for advertisment - or even worse - national intelligence purposes. This needs to be addressed and policy makers need to make sure that there is transparency (ah, yes!) regarding what exactly happens with my data. Users need to be in control about the information they give to service providers, there is no doubt about that!

Despite these clear issues however, I would encourage all of us to be a little more open and adventurous. Of course we might step into some pit here and there, but only by playing and trying out will we advance. Nothing good ever emerged from remaining on the spot:

The bottom line is: Are we always just able to either hype something into the sky or bash it into the ground? Potential and danger are always going hand in hand, and we shouldn't deny our responsability to find a thoughtful way through the unknown, so that we can harvest the most benefit possible (the potential of social change in a interconnected world) without risking everything (our freedom and our integrity).

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Blogging increases stress

After about 6 months of blogging, it's time to look back and reflect on the outcome of my blogging activities. And I hate to name it, but the first outcome that comes to mind is stress. First it was the stress of finding the right topic. Do I have anything to talk about which would be interesting enough to others? Then it was the stress of being seen. Suddenly friends were mentioning that they have read my blog lately and were commenting on it. Each time then I rushed back to my site to verify that what I had written was really something I could still confirm, desperately hoping that I make somehow sense with what I write. Then it was the stressful urge to get more users. Of course I want to be seen and I want have more readers, so I started to link to other blogs and make comments there, at the same time inviting others to comment on mine. Which of course requires further investment in research and quality check. And increased quality indeed takes time and effort, which in return results in - yes - stress.

Not that I regret having started to write this blog. Actually I really learned about Web 2.0 and myself in a way which would not have been possible without writing about it. And yes, by now I really HAVE someting to write about. I'm discovering new aspects of the Web 2.0 discussion, of social networking and knowledge management every day! In fact, meanwhile I'm having much more ideas and blog posts in my mind than I am able to write about. I'm just running out of time, as I have of course a full-time job, a social life outside the internet and the need to relax from time to time. Not being able to follow up on all I want to write about, this is actually the most frustrating blogging-induced stress I experienced so far. And again one, which I haven't had 6 months ago...