Curmudgeons Unite!

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo's SurroundingsAs I have mentioned in a previous blog post, while I have been on holidays over the last couple weeks, totally disconnected from everything online, unwinding and re-charging batteries, I have also had plenty of time to rethink how I am effectively making use of various different social software tools, both internally and externally, and after plenty of thought I have come to the conclusion that, slowly but steadily, I am becoming a little bit of a curmudgeon. Perhaps more than what I could have expected. At least, I wasn’t expecting it this soon, even though I have been using social software tools since as far back as 2000 and 2001. But the reality is that I am becoming one.

I know that statement may come across to folks out there as a shocker. Yes, Luis Suarez, one of the thousands of social computing evangelists out there turning himself into a curmudgeon after all these years getting the most out of the social software experience. Goodness!, if I didn’t know why I will probably be shocked myself as well! But, eventually, there is a reason. As usual, there’s always a reason.

I guess I could sum it up in one single sentence: "The more heavily involved I’m with the various social networking sites available out there, the more I heart my own personal business blogs". As you may have guessed, this crankiness phase I’m going through hasn’t got anything to do with the world of social computing in general, but more with a good number of social networking sites. And, funny enough, they all happen to be some of the most popular ones.

It all has got to do with something as important as protecting your identity, your brand (And that one of the company that may be employing you), your personal image, your own self in various social software spaces that more and more we seem to keep losing control over, and with no remedy. It is what Harold Jarche mentioned a little bit in a blog post ("Where’s your data?") and which I thought was worthwhile revisiting again.

Everyone knows about Facebook and LinkedIn, perhaps two of the most powerful social networking sites available out there for everyone to get connected and reach out not only to fellow colleagues but also to customers, business partners, other thought leaders in whatever the industry and friends and family, of course, specially for Facebook. But how many folks do really know something so important, yet so equally ignored, that has become a bit too worrying lately? Yes, certainly, I am talking about the Terms of Service for each of them. Have you read them? Have you really read them? Have you understood the repercussions of using such networking sites? Do you realise that by making heavy use of either of them you pretty much lose all of your rights to the content that you generate and therefore should own by default?

Yes, many people do not know that, yet their terms of service state it very clear. Yet we continue to make use of them. Why? Because everyone else is in there? Because it’s the current hype (You need to use Facebook to share your photos so that you could tag or be tagged, or you need to have a profile in LinkedIn so you could land in that perfect dream job that never seems to come through?)? Because if you don’t have a presence there it means you don’t get social software and social networking within a business context? Because… you get the drift…

Well, I am starting to get tired of that. I am starting to get tired of having to constantly protect my name, my brand, my image (And that one of the company that employs me) from just some networking site that doesn’t understand the concept of protecting the rights and the data of the end-users who have made that site incredibly popular in the first place. I am starting to get tired of the abuse that those sites are inflicting upon their end-users by re-using their content for their own purposes, and in most cases without any kind of approval or further notice.

That’s why over the last few months I haven’t been very active in either Facebook or LinkedIn. I have been keeping a profile for each of them, but have remained personally dormant all along in those spaces. On purpose. However, I feel it is time to change that. More than anything else, because, just recently, I was alerted that one of my favorite social file sharing sites has joined that selected group of social networking sites with rather aggressive terms of service. And it is actually a situation that has been there for months! Yes, for months!! I am talking, of course, about Slideshare and its terms. Quite an interesting read, if you ask me.

I guess that plenty of these social networking sites should learn quite a bit from those that are doing things right! Examples like Twitter come to mind. And that’s why I have decided that instead of remaining dormant (i.e. for Facebook and LinkedIn) or making use of them in a lightweight manner (i.e. Slideshare), I am having enough of it. I think it’s a good time that we put a stop to it. That we all become curmudgeons from those networking sites that clearly don’t seem to understand the rights of the people they are trying to serve.

So, yes, from now on, I guess you could call me a social networking site curmudgeon, one that will stop making use, as of today, of Facebook, LinkedIn & Slideshare. No excuses. For sure. It’s about time. I will still keep my profile for each and everyone of them, hoping that one of these days they would understand the kind of harm they are inflicting upon themselves by not protecting the core business of what they are trying to offer.

And, finally, a new lesson learned for yours truly. Next time around that one of my trusted contacts invites me to explore a new social networking tool with powerful capabilities the first thing I’ll be doing is certainly not jumping the shark, build a profile, and a network, and put there some content in it to get things going. No, I won’t do that. First, I will read their Terms of Service and if they are along the same lines as the ones I have mentioned above, I will still put my curmudgeon hat on and turn the offer down kindly. And move on…

Life is just too short to have to waste your time, your energy and your effort (And that of your social networks!) in social networking sites that take away from you the most precious thing: your identity, your brand, your image, your content… Yourself.

And I am no longer willing to do that. And you?

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15 Comments »

  • Steve Bell says:

    Luis,

    Definitely something to think about. I have yet to really put much content in any of the social networking sites. Profile and some stuff – but not much. I am using my personal blog more – on a content side. Does this make me a curmudgeon? Then count me in.

    Steve

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  • Rick Ladd says:

    I don’t know if we’ve ever talked about this, but nearly four years ago (coming up in February) I started a person (definitely not business) blog; one in which I gave vent to a slightly darker side of my personality. The name of this blog is “The Cranky Curmudgeon”.

    Now, you know I read your blog anyway, but this one really caught my eye for that reason. I haven’t actually written a post for this one in over a year, but I can’t bring myself to delete it and spend all my time on my (ostensibly) business blog.

    As usual, I appreciate your perspective on matters I agree are of great import for those of us seeking to make sense of those capabilities of the web that are bringing us closer socially, both as a primary goal and as a method of increasing the efficacy of our business relationships.

    Talk soon,

    Rick

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  • Paul says:

    Luis, I haven’t been on external social networking sites due to privacy issues. And I always questioned the value of LinkedIn. What do you think will be more valuable to a prospective employer? How you built your own personal web presence or what you did for the company you currently work for?

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  • Seb says:

    I’m curious, which part of SlideShare’s terms do you have a problem with?

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  • kim sbarcea says:

    Luiz, you can now join me then. I have been blogging for quite some time about privacy issues with (mainly) Facebook and how a slight change in their Terms of Service could very well mean your private data could be sold.
    I have a minimal presence of FB and LinkedIn and I will keep it that way. I think we all need to use social networks with caution and think through the privacy implications. Guess that makes me curmudgeonly too :-)
    Kim

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  • [...] that I have gotten off my chest that reflection on something I have been meaning to write about for a while now, I think it is time to [...]

  • [...] believe that Luis Suarez has started something in Curmudgeons Unite!: I guess I could sum it up in one single sentence: “The more heavily involved I’m with the [...]

  • Gail says:

    Hi Luis – funny, I’ve been struck by the same thoughts and while I’ve jumped into some new things have stopped joining new ones. I do worry about losing my privacy. Plus frankly it’s too many places to go or check (even with the consolidator tools) so I’ve focusing on the vital few instead.
    Side note – I hope to see you at Lotusphere in January, we need to meet up.

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  • [...] Il m’a fallu un peu plus de temps qu’à l’habituelle pour trouver la signification du mot « curmudgeon » qui dans ce contexte se traduirait par « curmudgeon », justement. Comme dans toutes choses Twitter, le hashtag associé à ce mot (#curmudgeon) est aussi cryptique que tous les RT @Truc qui le précèdent et le suivent habituellement, de sorte que je n’y avais guère prêté attention. Mais en remontant quelques autres fils, tout à fait par hasard, je suis tombé sur la source, un certain Luis Suarez lié en ligne à notre ami Harold Jarche qui a écrit un billet intitulé Curmudgeons Unite!. [...]

  • [...] Luis Suarez: I guess I could sum it up in one single sentence: “The more heavily involved I’m with the various social networking sites available out there, the more I heart my own… blogs“. … It all has got to do with something as important as protecting your identity, your brand… your personal image, your own self in various social software spaces that more and more we seem to keep losing control over, and with no remedy. [...]

  • David Ing says:

    @elsua I’ve also become more of curmudgon by reforming the way I do blogging, microblogging and webstreaming around the same time that you posted this blog entry.

    I’m now making a stronger distinction between the content, and the redistribution (e.g. retweeting) of it. As examples, by creating a new microblog, Twitter and Friendfeed become channels rather than original content sources.

    Some of this is related to how you want to license your own content to others. I understand that I own the copyright as soon as I publish it — in the old days, it would have been when committed to paper — so I have the Creative Commons licensing conditions in the footer of my web pages.

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  • Luis:
    I have the same question as @Seb – which part of their terms is objectionable?
    All I see is that they are making sure you know that if you upload slides, other people can embed them, and that you’re ok with that.

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  • [...] you remember, last year I created a blog post where I was sharing some insights as to how disappointed I have been as of late with a number of [...]

  • Alesa says:

    Luis, I am just laughing at how small a world it is. I am designing a Web site and related social endeavors for a personal passion of mine and wanted to have a section about my curmudgeonly thoughts. I wanted the section to have the humorous title “Curmudgeons Unite!” and I was actually naive enough to believe this title was fairly original and creative. When I Googled it to ensure the title would be unique, your post came up first! I became a disciple of yours at IBM late in your tenure. While I’m here relating this “small world” story, let me just say that your leaving was IBM’s loss. There are others social gurus there, but none as inspiring as you. I hope this finds you thriving in your new venture!!

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    • Luis Suarez says:

      Hi Alesa, my goodness! What a small world, indeed! And what a treat, indeed, that, after 5 years this blog post still finds space for dropping by and sharing some wonderful feedback! Even if the topic is a bit too provocative! hehe

      You would have to tell me when the Web site is up and to check that Curmudgeons Unite! section (along with the others), because I am sure I may be able to join you there and everything! Sounds like you are on to something brilliant and mind-blowing altogether!

      Yes, indeed, it’s been quite an experience moving on and everything. It’s been now nearly 4 months since I left and moved on and it does feel like years have gone by already! I guess that’s what happens when you are having fun, that time flies by like crazy!! We should find some time to catch up and everything and many thanks for dropping by, for letting serendipity do its magic and look forward to checking out Curmudgeons United! soon!

      Take care and have a good one!

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