Tag Archives: Facebook

Why did I let my daughter have a Facebook account?

You need to be sure your child is old enough for Social Media....

You need to be sure your child is old enough for Social Media….

Are you not a fan of Facebook?

Not really. It’s a useful part of our communication system. We can reach friends around the world (as ex-pats, that’s very important) and we can also trade messages with friends when cell-phones aren’t to hand or convenient. But I keep being reminded that Facebook isn’t there for my convenience – if it were, I would have to pay for it.

Do you have this attitude with all Social Media? Twitter? G+? Tumblr?

To some degree. As a writer, I’m keen to use whatever methods I can to promote my work, and these days Social Media is the best way to reach people. But Twitter doesn’t bombard me with adverts, and G+ is serving a different function for me than Facebook – it’s not for general conversation and swapping photos, it’s a place where I meet other writers, people I don’t already know.

So why let your daughter get a Facebook account?

The basic answer is because she asked. Her friends use Facebook and she was curious about it. We talked it over with her, showed her what a Facebook account looks like, what to watch out for, and let her think about it. After two weeks, she was still interested, so we signed her up.

Are you worried?

Well, yes. Facebook is an aggressive environment. They’re trying to earn money for their shareholders, and the protections available for users are manipulated on a regular basis to make it easier for the company to harvest personal information and target advertising. My daughter is bright, but she’s also a key demographic – just beginning to earn money for herself, growing a circle of friends and interested in the world of media. If the hooks get set in her now, she could be milked for cash for the rest of her life.

Yuck. So why not say no?

We have, for a couple of years. However, Social Media isn’t going away. It’s going to evolve and change, but it’s a part of the world my daughter is growing up in. Cars probably kill more people each year than Social Media, but it’s better to teach your kid to drive than expect them to rely on public transport for the rest of their lives. Yes, signing her up for Facebook felt a little like booking her a cabin on the Titanic, but it’s a good place to begin. She can learn to manipulate Facebook, to keep as much of herself hidden from the advertisers as possible, to screen who she adds to her friends list, to consider what she posts before she presses that button.

What, specifically, did you warn her against?

We tried the old adages. Never post anything you don’t think is necessary, true or kind. Never post anything about anyone you wouldn’t say to their face. If you’re talking direct to a friend, do it in a message,  not a post. Don’t add people as friends just because you know them or know of them.

Aren’t you worried she’ll spend hours wasting time on Facebook?

No, because we still govern her access. Without her own computer and no internet access through her phone, she has to use the PC. And her time on that is already monitored and restricted by the fact that it’s the work machine for the house.

Is it really that important for her?

Right now she wants a Facebook account because she thinks it’ll be a fun thing to have. However, these days it’s unthinkable that someone wouldn’t have an email address, whereas ten years ago you could’ve gotten by without one. In five years time, Social Media and portable computing, smartphones and wireless will have collided to the extent that a social media presence will be as inevitable as a phone number or email. At the moment we’re all concerned that nothing on the internet ever goes away, but in a few years you’ll NEED to have an internet persona because it will affect every other aspect of your life.

Er…you’re sounding a little weird. Do you have any evidence for that?

Sorry. No, I’m extrapolating from available data*. But it’s a fair guess. Five years ago saw the launch of the iPad, and now millions of people use tablets in their everyday life. People update Social Media from their phones, adding their location without thought, giving verdicts on everything from music to shopping and restaurant experiences, things that influence other people to a startling degree. “Fifty Shades of Grey” isn’t a best seller because it’s a brilliantly written story. (Sorry, it’s not. And yes, I really do know.)

Should other people let their children have Facebook accounts?

Other people do, obviously. What other people ought to do…Well, I think they ought to make sure they can monitor their child’s use of Social Media until the child reaches their majority. If your kid has a smartphone with a data plan that they use to run their Social Media account, it’s very important that you’re in their friends list to know what’s being said. On the other hand, I don’t think it’ll be long before Facebook adopts the G+ model allowing people to easily post to specific groups within their Facebook friends, cutting out parents automatically.

But I think it’s important that parents understand social media is here to stay, and learning to use social media is important, or it’ll use you. Help your child go in with their eyes open and shields up.

 

*making it up

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Why not be sociable?

Screen grab from my G+ circles page. If you don't know what that means, read on.....

The urge to moan about my lack of output or success in the job market is growing, so I thought I’d side-step it and talk about Social Media instead.

I’m not a guru. I can’t tell you how to “do” Social Media, and I can’t promise you that I’ll get Social Media to increase your sales, your popularity or your productivity.

What I can say is that I enjoy interacting with other people through Social Media, and the Social Media I prefer is G+. I’m sorry, Facebook friends, but most of the time when you’re talking to me or getting comments from me on Facebook, it’s Mrs Dim. Facebook has been brilliant for staying in touch with friends from the UK, and it’s a great standby if someone hasn’t handed out their email address. When Mrs Dim was away recently, we even used it to message each other, which looked very bizarre to other people, since we both used the same login….

Anyway, I was invited to join G+ during the Beta phase and found it was fun. At first it was quiet, with few users, but I added some interesting folks to my circles and things started to move. In G+ you have circles for different groups of people, and you can post things to a single circle, or all your circles, or just to the public….and you can do the same with the things you see. What appears is called your stream, and you can set it to receive a lot of things from particular circles, and not much from others, or just leave them all open all the time, like I do.

I’ve been quite cautious about who I’ve added to my circles, meaning I’m only in contact with around 400 people. That’s still a lot of content rushing past every day. In turn, only around 200 people have ME in THEIR circles, so I’m not filling the whole internet with my ramblings. What that small grouping means is that I can actually converse with these people, swap ideas and stories, read what they’ve got to say and maybe pass it along.

I’ve learned a great deal from G+, from reading articles reposted by friends, following links to other websites, and I’ve made some good friends. Yes, friends.

Some people have the opinion that friends are only friends if you’ve met them face to face. But these are people I chat to every day. I may not know a great deal about them – in some cases, I don’t even know their real names – but I know I like chatting to them. They don’t ask me creepy questions about my kids, they don’t try to find out my address, my phone number or bank details, and we share a lot of interests. When I need an opinion on something, like my new e-book, I can ask these people. They don’t have the need, like real-life friends do, to say nice things to me because someday we’ll be having dinner together. In turn, I’ve been asked to offer advice on THEIR stories, or pictures, or projects.

This is the key with social media, or so I’ve heard. Not building a huge following and broadcasting your ‘stuff’ to them on a regular basis. No, the idea is to build relationships by talking to people, getting to know them a little, and giving them some of your time and attention. It’s only fair, after all.

I know that some of the 200 people who have me in their circles, have LOTS more people following them than I do. Thousands and thousands, in some cases. If I post news of my new project and one of them is kind enough to repost it, it can be seen by thousands of readers instead of hundreds. If some of them repost it, it could reach hundreds of thousands. That’s the connecting power of social media, but it means nothing if YOU don’t connect with the people first.

The Devil Colony Party

If it's a costume party, I'm in!

Woody Allen once said “I don’t advertise. I don’t pander. Because it’s illegal, and immoral to advertise a product that you don’t actually use.” Yeah, but this isn’t advertising, folks, this is a PARTY! Let me explain….

Tiniest Weasel joins the party

Tuesday the 21st June sees the release of ‘The Devil Colony” by James Rollins. Up until very recently I wasn’t familiar with his books, but then I took the excellent online course on boosting your author profile by Kristen Lamb. She’s Jim’s Number One Fan and between them they came up with a revolutionary concept. Instead of those stuffy publishing parties that only the very very elite get invited to when a book launches, why not have a worldwide ONLINE party for EVERYBODY?

 

Yes, it sounds like one of those wacky and insane ideas that won’t catch on, like three-quarter length trousers, and pre-teen singing stars, but stay with it. Kristen posted on her blog , inviting one and all to attend the party (in dress up or not) through the media of FaceBook and Twitter. No one is excluded!

Even my nephew wants to party!

So, here it is: Your chance to be part of a book launch party for an internationally published and successful author. Upload your party pictures with a #devilcolony tag or head over to Jim’s Facebook fan page . The best pictures will be selected for a wall of fame. There’s even a rumour of *gulp* A MYSTERY PRIZE!

If you’re wondering why you should do this, then shame on you! This is what social media is for – word of mouth recommendations for things you would otherwise have missed completely. Unlike a lot of the characters in the Sigma Force books, you don’t have a gun to your head, but you do have an open invitation to chat with people from all around the world, including James Rollins himself. When did you last have that opportunity?

Check out his books, either through Amazon or your local library, then rush out and reserve a copy of “The Devil Colony”, available TUESDAY 21st June.

If this isn’t very clear, check out Kristen’s original post… Or the excellent one by Educlation… or Jenny Hansen’s take on it….or the awesome Ironic Mom… And if  you haven’t got the idea yet, why not go to http://www.tlc-creative and download my book on writing a play for community theatre, because you’re obviously going to be at a loose end on Tuesday while EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD WILL BE AT THIS PARTY…………….

Facebook and the Imminent Divorce Drama

We hadn’t been living in Canada very long before the top question from people we spoke to became “What do you miss?” rather than “Why Canada?” It wasn’t so easy to answer, because we’d spent a long time thinking “Why Canada?” but had been consciously avoiding the “What will we miss?” question. To be honest, there weren’t a lot of the expected things to miss, because there were so many new things to get used to. The Weasels missed odd things, like Weetabix and Ceebeebies, but Mrs Dim and myself…Well, I suppose you could say we immediately missed the familiar, the known ways of doing things. We tried to buy a car by looking in the local papers, a method we both had used in the UK for buying a second-hand car, something good for running about it but not too precious. We couldn’t find any listed. Odd. No “Autotrader” magazine in the shops either…. Little differences, rather than gaping absences.

As time passed, however, it was clear that the expected suspects were the ones that were missed most – family and friends. That first month in Canada was the longest time we had all spent together as a family without the intervention of school or work, and the realisation that the kids had no friends to go and see, that we had no parents available to go and stay with, was quite terrifying. You know that moment on a rollercoaster, when the bar clunks into place and you realise, however enthusiastic you were getting in, that now you CANNOT GET OUT if you want to and your stomach gives a little flutter of panic? Well, that was us, all day.

Moving into our first house and making friends with the other people in the street took some of the strain off, and regular Skype chats with our parents helped the lonlieness, but it still felt like we were on the end of a long line. We’ve adjusted, had friends come over to stay, but there are times when we still feel those absences sharply. Like last weekend.

I’ve mentioned in a couple of posts how I’m struggling with The World’s Largest Home Improvement Retailer over the matter of working every weekend. For her part, Mrs Dim is struggling with working 7am to 6pm weekdays and Weasel wrangling all weekend. There are unhealthy tensions from time to time, and last weekend the dam broke again. Despite me working Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon/evening, we had gone to the US to celebrate Thanksgiving with Mrs Dim’s Sister and her family. I came back early Sunday to get away to work, and returned home in the evening to find a frosty reception. Over lunch the next day we laid out the problems on both sides and discussed possible solutions. In the meantime, Mrs Dim used my Facebook account to post that we were in the throes of an “imminent divorce”. It’s nice to report that friends were horrified and rallied to support us and send messages of hope and best wishes. Nobody weighed in with “I knew he was a waster, you’ll be well shot of him!” which was a relief. Once we had sorted through the mess and established a plan of action, we posted a retraction:

Mrs Dim is worried that we trivialised the very real and stressful effects a marital break up can have on everyone concerned, when the real problem we seemed to be suffering (apart from inflexible working conditions) was the lack of a safety valve – had we been in the UK, Mrs Dim might choose to spend at least part of the Weasel Wrangling weekends with one set of parents or the other, thus spreading Granparently joy and getting a break from being sole caregiver. Knowing that isn’t an option increases the tension.

I picked up my new work rota yesterday, and there’s a whole free weekend coming up in early December. The school  Christmas break might involve some manoevering, but for the moment the marriage prospects look good again. Plus, it’s been a record month in terms of writing income, which always helps. Today’s moral seems to be, don’t always believe what you read on Facebook. Or maybe it’s make the most of the family you have around you. I shall be smiling more broadly at my folks on Skype this Sunday anyway.

5 things you should know about working from home

When this was all I did, I kept EVERYTHING to hand

I’ve been thinking a lot about working from home recently. Partly because I’ve been thinking a lot about the way I work, and partly because my friend Lucy sent me this: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/working_home That made me laugh, but it’s all true.

I’ve told the story of my becoming a full-time writer many times in this blog, and if you’ve read through my back-posts, you’ll have seen me go back to being a part-time writer. Now I feel it’s more important than ever that I capitalise on my chances to work from home. I keep the thought of going back to working full-time at home as my ultimate goal.

Five Things You Should Know About Working From Home

  1. It may not be for you. Sorry to be blunt, but it isn’t easy. And there’s two parts to that. It isn’t easy to be productive in the home environment, and it isn’t easy to find a job that’ll let you work from home in the first place. Yes, people will sell you books explaining how telecommuting is changing the face of the workplace, but I dare you to go ask your boss if you can work from home. He’s likely to say “For god’s sake, you’re a Zoo Keeper! How are you going to feed the lions? Facebook?” Ok, he’ll only say that if you’re a zookeeper, but I bet he doesn’t agree.
  2. Working in your pyjamas isn’t as much fun as you might think. No, really. I see this used as a justification all the time. Folks saying “I used to have to wear power suits every day, and now I sit at the computer in my pyjamas and make $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$!”. For one thing, unless you’ve got a computer in your pyjamas, that sentence is grammatically incorrect. For another, how businesslike are you going to feel, in your pyjamas? I once had to do a serious interview with a genuine TV personality. She returned my call unexpectedly early, and I found it hard to remain detached and focussed on taking notes because I was in my dressing gown while talking to Charlie Dimmock. By the way, she doesn’t know this, so please don’t tell her. One traumatised person is enough.
  3. It can be lonely. Just run through in your head how many people you talk to every day at work. Even if you hate the people you work with, can you imagine spending the day alone? You like the thought of that? What about the next day? And the next. And the next. Every day, just you and your PC, only communicating with others by phone or email. You will find yourself cruising Facebook, looking for live users to chat to for the pure human interaction. Well, that’s my excuse. If you find yourself on You Tube looking at kittens, give it up.
  4. An unstructured day can be unhealthy. Now I know that some of you can spend waaay too long in the office. One of Mrs Dim’s first bosses had his desk next to the front window and would always be visible in his office until seven or eight, his face glowing in the light from his monitor. Turned out he was playing Solitaire most of the time, and he ended up having a heart attack at his desk. What was my point? Hang on. *pause* Oh, yeah. even if you like to hang it on at the end of the work day, there are little clues to keep you in the regular rhythm of work. You probably can’t get into the office before 6am. You see everyone else going to lunch between 11am and 3pm (FROM 11am to 3pm if you work in advertising) so you know it’s lunchtime. And at some point they’ll turn off the lights and lock the doors so the cleaners can get to work. If you’re childless and working from home, who’s going to regulate YOUR working day? You are, that’s who. So if you let lunchtime slide because you’re on a roll, or start working at five in the morning, no one’s going to stop you. But no one’s going to make you go outside either, no one’s going to make you take a break, make you eat something. There are days I go outside to collect the weasels from school and I am surprised by the sunshine. If the light’s bright outside, I close the blinds so I can see the words on the screen, and then four hours later I step out the front door….It’s a wonder I don’t disintegrate into a pile of ashes.
  5. People won’t believe you’re working. If you’re a parent returning to the work environment via working from home, the chances are you’ll know other parents who aren’t out at work all day. They may well believe it’s ok to drop in on you at coffee time (read: any time their kids are at school/playgroup/college/scoring dope) and talk your ears off while you’re wondering if your partner will be angry there’s no money coming in from your business today. If you’re at HOME, you’re not at WORK, folks, no matter how fancy your home office is. If you’re working, don’t answer the door. If you answer the door, don’t blame me.

Slightly less clutter, slightly more productivity in slightly less time

So now I’m trying to empower my business, big up my personal brand, claim my webvibe and…you know, earn some money. Today (and I still can’t believe I did this) I decided to take some positive steps towards increasing sales of my e-book (www.tiny.cc/ghfo9) and so I went online and discovered the excellent blog by Kristen Lamb . I followed her advice and bought her e-book ‘We are not alone“. Yes, read that bit again. I wanted to promote my e-book, so I went out and bought an e-book. Should I just have sent myself that  money? All will be revealed when I have read through “We are not alone” and followed the advice within. If I can consolidate my social media platforms and expand my webpresence without losing my grip on my brand….I’ll be very surprised.

E-Commerce: buying with a click?

Ooh, catchy title. That’ll have ’em flocking to my blog in droves. In fact, that’s a lot of the problem I’ve been thinking about this week. Well, thinking about in the few spaces between bussing the Weasels to Weasel Camp, greeting merry Home Improvement Customers, laundering the Washing Mountain and resurrecting the long-lost Gazebo. Plus it’s hot.

As you know, I finished and made available, through the wonder of the internet, my e-book “Writing a play for the Amateur Stage” (or, if you’re in North America, “Writing a play for Community Theatre”). I knew, as it launched, that this was not going to be the end of the work. Nothing sells itself. But this is the internet, and everyone knows that selling stuff on the internet is easy. You just make a viral video, or tell a few folks, or mention it on your blog, and the next thing you know whatever you’re selling has been mentioned on “Oprah” and you have to give up your day job to stay ahead of demand, you’re appearing on reality TV shows and dating a singer…

E-Book to real book. Even I enjoy reading it....

E-Book to real book. Even I enjoy reading it....

I really, really thought about making a viral video for the book. I mean, I’m a writer, and I’ve written scripts for films before. Short ones, yes, and longer ones that didn’t get made (yet) but even so, writing a viral is a bit different. For a start, as someone pointed out recently, YOU don’t make it viral. The people who pass it on do that. Setting out to make a viral video is a bit like setting out to write a bestseller. It doesn’t get the title until it’s earned it, and that’s the bit you can’t influence. So I haven’t done that yet. Plus there’s the fact that at the moment I only have the Weasels on hand as volunteer actors, and they’re not interested unless there are special effects and lightsabres involved.

So I talked to other writers about my book. The first problem I ran into was that this is an electronic product. I handed out little cards with the cover on them, plus a neat Tiny URL (http://tiny.cc/ghfo9) that takes you straight to the sales page of our website. Neat, but useless, as you have to then go home and type the URL into something. What I needed was an iPad to demo the book for people there and then. I didn’t even try to convince Mrs Dim that an investment of $500 was a good idea to flog a book costing $10 a time. I needed to show people the book, in situations where I wouldn’t be in front of a PC or laptop. Social situations, relaxed situations. In a burst of brilliance, I realised that what I needed to do was have a physical copy of the book. Something with pages you could turn. Ludicrous as it may seem, I went off and negotiated with a Printer to get two copies of my e-book printed out and bound. It took a lot of explaining. He was concerned that the cost of producing the book would be prohibitive. I explained again that I only wanted two of them. He pointed out that the book wasn’t laid out in the traditional manner, with blank pages included, and so it was rather low on the page count. I reminded him that it was intended as a download, which made blank pages redundant. He asked me again why I wanted it printed. I wondered that too, as I gently banged my head on his desk.

A fortnight later, I have two physical books. Yes, they’re still a bit slim, and they don’t accommodate the changes suggested by Claire Sowerbutt at our last PWAC meeting, but people can look at them without a computer. They can see the product I’m trying to sell them. I’m sure that’ll help with the folks I see face-to-face, but what about everyone else? I’m not going to go out into the world and meet everyone who I think might like to buy the book. The internet should give me the opportunity to present my product to millions of potential customers, and in a way that isn’t half as intrusive as the leaflets that still come through my mailbox about getting my driveway re-covered. I saw a brilliant interview about this on BBC World the other day. A woman was talking about targeted internet marketing and saying it’s not a bad thing. She used an example of a book about Labrador Puppies. Surely, she said, it’s better that the advert for that book only appears on websites about Labradors? The people who visit that website are more likely to want a book like that. Compare that to an advert on the homepage of, say, Yahoo.co.uk, where only a fraction of the people logging on will care two hoots about dogs, let alone Labradors.

I think she’s right, but then I got to thinking about internet advertising in general. I have never, ever clicked on an advertisement on a web page and bought something I wasn’t already intending to buy. I use the internet for all kinds of shopping, from movies and music to electronic AV gear, but I don’t think I’ve been tempted to a purchase by targeted advertising. I get targeted adverts from people like “Things from another World” a comic and Sci-Fi store. They have literally thousands of products I would love to own, and their adverts turn up on webpages I view as well as dropping into my general-use email. I’ve bought one thing from them in the last ten years, and it was something I went to find online. I bought the thing I wanted and I haven’t bought anything from them since.

So what about YOU, dear reader? Do you follow the clicktrail from the brightly coloured adverts on your homepage and make impulse purchases? If you belong to a Facebook group, does it annoy you when people use the Wall to post adverts for their products? Or is that part of what Social Networking is for? I know I would be much more likely to follow a link from one of the people I follow on Twitter than I would be to open an advert. I’ve contributed to independent film production through a Twitter link (For the brilliant “Origin” by the one and only Danny Stack) but I don’t even click for the movie preview trailers on the Yahoo homepage. Answers in the comments box please!