A first look at the new Facebook profile

I’ve bitten the bullet and had a play with the new profile in Facebook. You’ll be able to see it on 1st October. I will take you through the process of setting it up (once you’ve agreed to do so). At the moment it’s only open to developers.

When I said yes, I accepted the option to take the tour. First up you can select the cover (the large photo). It selected the most recent photo that had been tagged with my name. As you can see, this isn’t me – it’s my beautiful great-grand-nephew:

Timeline tour 1

When I clicked on ‘Choose Your Cover Now’ it gave me a selection of photos of me, and I chose one. Then I moved on to the next step:

Timeline tour 2

Yes, you can see everything in one place, including photos others have tagged you in and places you’ve checked into. I’ve only ever checked in to one place (in Geelong, VIC), so it looks like I’ve never been anywhere.

Next it shows me where my ‘activity’ is, ie, posts and comments and so on. Only I can see this list.

Then the timeline itself. I can go back in time and see my posts and stories as far back as I’ve been on Facebook.

I can go through my profile and see what’s there that I may not want others to see, and remove them from my profile. I can also highlight the ones I want a big deal made of.

Just to emphasis this removal business I’ll show the box again:

There was a lot I had to remove, and I found even more once I’d taken the tour and got stuck in.

I haven’t added any missing stories and events, but I can see how tempting it is to fill in those gaps.

I then went through all the photos of me, and clicked on the option to remove the photos tagged with my name that I didn’t want on my profile. This is the message I got for each of them:

I haven’t removed the tag (only the owner of the photo can do that) but it’s not on my profile for others to see there any more.

So here is my new profile:


It’s very pretty, I’ll say that. I do quite like the two-column arrangement of posts, and the bigger pictures look great. Pictures should be BIG, don’t you think?

What I’m not happy about is a growing list of things:

  • the photos others have tagged me in (mostly not of me) appear on my timeline. If you don’t change the main picture when Facebook roll it out to everyone you may end up with someone’s baby photo there, or a picture of a cow from Farmville.
  • if my friends have left their full dates of birth public then they appear on my timeline. This is appalling.
  • the date I first joined Facebook is now visible to everyone. I’m sure it used to be originally, but now it’s not, and soon it will be again.
  • To be safe I now have to go through each photo and each post and check who I shared it with. I have more friends now than I did when I started, and I may not be comfortable with all of them being able to see stuff I posted before I knew them.
  • The photos of me that I’ve shared (to family and friends) cover most of my life, but they appear on the timeline according to when I posted them. I can’t change this date, so my baby picture appears under 2008.
  • I also can’t change the place if it isn’t in a city. For example, the photo on my profile you can see was taken in Zaire in 1991, not Sydney in 2008.
  • I’m really not comfortable with how far back the timeline goes. Even if there are no posts or photos to show there, you can get an idea of when it starts; and by that I mean, when I was born. I can’t really get away with people thinking I was born in 1975 with a timeline like this!
  • The activity list is not in date/time order. It’s probably in order of last comment, but then it’s not my activity, is it?

There may be other things I will discover later, but that’s enough to go on with.

In short, I have privacy concerns. What appears on my profile is not entirely in my control. I have to check everything, and I mean everything, to see if it’s fit to be seen by my friends. I’ve been using lists in Facebook for a long time, but I rarely changed my setting and mostly posted to friends. Now it might be more appropriate to do this.

And that’s to say nothing of how it will work with other applications, like games. If these are going to post automatically without me needing to approve each time, as has been suggested by Ben Parr at Mashable, it will get very nasty.

I was expecting to like the changes, and I do, to a point. But unless some drastic changes are made before it rolls out to everyone, I may be leaving Facebook forever and using Google+, which I already love.

How did Facebook get my email address?

FacebookLast month I gave a talk to some ‘seniors’ about social media, particularly Facebook. Many of them are wary of using social media because of privacy concerns, and talking to them made me realise that there are a lot of misconceptions that make people more fearful than they need to be.

One that stands out involves requests from other people. Some of them had received friend requests from others, usually relatives, that arrived in the form of an email. These emails come from Facebook and so the recipients were automatically suspicious.

Facebook cannot get your email address. Only people that already know your email address can send you messages from Facebook. If you get an email from Facebook it is because someone who knows you used Facebook and has used the email address that they know is yours.

Finding Friends in Facebook

When your friend uses the Friend Finder in Facebook they are asked for temporary access to their email address book so that it can use the email addresses. It doesn’t keep them, so every time they use it they have to give permission and sign in with their email password all over again.

Facebook Friend Finder

They enter their email address and password, and Facebook looks through their email addresses and gives a list of all the addresses that have been used to join Facebook. They can select all of these, or just a few of them – it’s their choice – and then they can send them all a friend request, which the friends then have a choice about accepting.

Some of the people in their address books may not be friends. They may be acquaintances, tradespeople, teachers, or even relatives that you would not want to speak to on a day-to-day basis. The people in your address book are not necessarily people you would want to have a continuing social relationship with.

But if they left all of them selected then they will be sent a friend request.

Finding Friends who do not use Facebook

After they have dealt with the people in their address book that are already registered in Facebook they are then given the a list of the ones who are not. They can then send them those people an invitation to join Facebook, which sends each one of them an email.

I think it is these invitations that are causing concern for some people. They look like they have come from Facebook, which they have, but only because someone who knows you has chosen to send the invitation to you.

Again, they can choose to select only certain people, or leave everyone selected and send a message to everyone.

They can then use the address books in the other services listed, such as Skype and Windows Live Messenger, to find more friends, and the process starts all over again.

To preserve the privacy of my own friends I can’t show you what these screens look like. But there is nothing diabolical about this process.

If you receive an email from Facebook that asks you to be friends with someone, you can assume that it has come from that person directly, using Facebook. If the person is a friend or relative that you would like to stay in contact with then you have nothing to fear from joining Facebook as long as you immediately start off by changing some of the privacy settings. These are described in detail in my book Social Media for Family Historians.

You may find, after you join Facebook, that you have much more meaningful contact with these friends and relatives than you did before. That has been my experience. You can share news, photos and stories quickly and easily without having to print and post the photos.


Facebook Privacy

KeysLast week I gave a workshop at the Society of Australian Genealogists Research Library for new Facebook users. There is a lot of interest in Facebook and how it can be used to connect with family and friends, but thereis also a lot of concern about privacy.

The biggest issue is the default privacy settings that new users are automatically given. Facebook was designed by college students for college students, and the fact is that this age group are not as concerned with privacy as most of us have learned to be. Facebook has been much in the news lately because users can be too trusting with people they meet on Facebook, and .

To address these concerns Facebook has recently simplified the presentation of the privacy settings. What you see when you go in to the privacy settings [under Account in the top right corner] looks like this if you haven’t changed any of the settings:

Facebook default privacy settingsThis is a summary. When you click on Customize settings you can change all of these settings, in much more detail thank you can see here.

This is what my own settings look like:

Updated privacy settingsThere is some information that Everyone can see, and that’s that. Your name, your photo, your gender and your networks (which are optional) is always visible so that people can find you. Everything else is customisable, from Everyone to Only Me:

  • Everyone
  • Friends of Friends
  • Just Friends
  • Customizable – allows you to choose individual people, lists of people, or Only Me

Of course, there is a balance between what you don’t want people to know about you and what people need to be able to see so they know it’s you. I suspect this balance is different for everyone, depending on what you want from Facebook. If you want to get in contact with people you went to school with all those years ago then it helps them to find you if you put your high school and year of graduation in and make it visible to Everyone. If the very thought fills you with horror, then don’t enter it, or make access more restricted. Professional networking needs employment details, connecting with classmates needs your current school or university, and so on.

I think the problem some of us have with Facebook is that we don’t know enough about how to control it. Once you learn how to make the changes you want it can become an indispensable part of how you communicate with friends and family. I’m pleased to say that some of the students in my class last week have gone on to become confident, active members of Facebook.

Don’t be afraid of Facebook, take control!