LinkedIn’s Terms and Conditions

linkedin-android-walks_0Social media terms and conditions is a subject area that is a little dry, so when asked to assess a network’s user agreement, I wasn’t sure which network to choose. In the hopes of being somewhat original, I focused my attention on LinkedIn. I can’t argue LinkedIn’s value, but much like terms and conditions, it’s not the most exciting social network. I was pleasantly surprised when I went to LinkedIn’s User Agreement page. I’m not saying that I’ll go to the page for pleasure reading, but after looking at Facebook and Twitter’s user agreements, I think LinkedIn may have the advantage.

Like Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn’s User Agreement is long and contains a lot of jargon. There’s really no way around it if they want to protect themselves. Unlike the other two networks, LinkedIn breaks down each section of the User Agreement into concise, easy to understand segments (below). Not only does this help ensure that users are reading the terms that they’re agreeing to, the organization and breakdown helps users to actually understand what they’re agreeing to, which is an ethical win for LinkedIn. No user can claim that they couldn’t make sense of the terms and conditions.

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Another great aspect of LinkedIn’s User Agreement is that there is a breakdown of what user responsibilities are, and then a section about what the company’s rights and obligations are to the users. On Facebook, the majority of responsibility is placed on the user. It’s nice that LinkedIn acknowledges that they have some accountability in the equation. This section also provides the network some security because if someone comes to the network with a complaint or problem, they can point to the User Agreement and show that they were up front about both the user’s and company’s obligations.

You hear about the implications of unethical behaviors on the “more social” social networks all the time. False representation or catfishing, has effected celebrities and professional athletes, and now there’s even a show dedicated to the unethical practice on MTV. As inconvenient as it may be to discover that someone else is using your photos or falsely representing you on Facebook or Twitter, can you imagine the negative implications of being falsely represented on LinkedIn? This is the network that is viewed as professional, so a fake profile could really ruin your career and your life.

While LinkedIn can’t force anyone to be an ethical person, the company’s User Agreement does take the necessary steps to protect users and the company itself. When LinkedIn users sign the User Agreement they agree that, “You promise to only provide us information and content that you have the right to give us and you promise that you LinkedIn profile will be truthful.” LinkedIn states that they have the right to suspend or terminate the profile of anyone who creates multiple or fake profiles. It seems as though LinkedIn has considered the major ethical implications, and they’ve done everything in their power to create a positive and secure user experience.

 

Social Media Terms and Conditions – The Small Print

I’m so connected to my computer and social media, when I login and see an updated user agreement or terms of services, I usually just scroll to the bottom of the page and click the “I accept” box. It doesn’t stop there, I recently signed a new lease and when handed a long document that the lady told me was “just your standard leasing agreement,” I signed the dotted line without reading all the terms and conditions. I could have signed my life away and I would have no clue!

This week’s lecture and readings reminded me a lot of the South Park iTunes agreement episode.

The problem with terms and conditions is that they’re just too long and usually contain jargon that’s hard to understand. It was a real struggle for me to make it all the way through the long list of terms and conditions, and there’s no way I would have read every word if it wasn’t for class! I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent person, but when reading through Facebook and Twitter’s user agreements, I have to admit that I was confused.

I don’t know that there is any quick and easy solution to making terms and conditions completely user-friendly because the social networks have to include the legal jargon so they don’t get sued. However, I think that there are steps that could be taken to ensure that social media users are actually reading the terms that they’re agreeing to.

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When reading through Facebook and Twitter’s terms and conditions, I liked that Twitter highlighted and summarized information in terms that everyone could understand (above). Organizing terms of service in this manner would help ensure that even if users didn’t read every single word, they would at least understand what they were agreeing to. I doubt that either network would legally be able to summarize all terms and conditions in this way, but I’m guessing it would increase what was actually read.

In Facebook’s terms and conditions this is a lot of emphasis put on “You,” as opposed to the company. As unfair as this may seem, you are the one who is using Facebook’s services, so you have to be responsible for how you use the network.

Some of the areas that I think need to be included in the terms and conditions of the social networks are user rights, privacy, how the site will share/use user content, account security, and provisions applied to advertisements/businesses. All of these areas have some crossover with ethical issues. To highlight an ethical concern that I’ve heard a lot about lately, I think it’s beneficial that both networks emphasize the fact that it’s against the rules to request that a user give you their password or account information. This will prevent the unethical practice of businesses requesting the information of potential employees.

Ethics usually aren’t black or white

Got ethics ?You can’t turn on the news without hearing about a company or an individual that has been impacted by social media. Just today, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about whether or not companies should monitor their employees’ social networking accounts. Because social media is still a new means of communication, there are still a lot of questions about what practices are and are not ethical. Even with careful consideration, a company or individual can still get into trouble because social media ethics are rarely black and white.

This week we learned the three steps to making an ethical decision:

  1. What are my motivations?
  2. What are the likely effects and to whom?
  3. Where does my duty lie strongest?

If you’re struggling with an ethical social media issue, these questions are great places to start. When I deal with ethical concerns, I like to focus on the second question. If I’m not sure if I should post something, whether it be on my personal or professional sites (If you’re even questioning it, you probably shouldn’t), I try to think of what the possible outcomes might be.  I wouldn’t post the same content on my business page, that I would post on my personal page. When I’m posting professionally, I’m representing my company, so my duty lies with the brand and its reputation.

That theory sounds simple enough, but as the lecture proved, practically applying the theory can get a little more complicated, especially in the field of journalism. As a journalist, I have sought out information about someone I was writing about on social networking sites. I’ve used pictures from Facebook, researched who their friends were, pulled quotes from statuses, and used social networks to connect with potential sources. Some may consider it unethical, but it’s a method of survival in the reporting industry.

I’ve always considered using social sites as a tool as ethical, because the person is putting the information out there, so as a reporter, why wouldn’t you use that information? You have a duty to your company and to your profession to tell the whole story, and social media sites can help you do that.

In the case of adding the friend of a murder victim on Facebook without identifying yourself as a reporter, I would consider that ethical. Once you send the friend request, the person has the ability to see who you are, and they can make the decision of whether or not they want to add you. The ball is in their court. While I don’t think there’s anything unethical about it, I don’t know that it’s the kindest of things to do. The person has just gone through a major tragedy, so as a human being, you should respect that and not overstep your boundaries.

 

Crowdfunding with KickStarter

KickStarter, crowdfundingIf you’re a young professional trying to break into a specific industry but lacking the resources to do so, KickStarter may be a good option for you. The crowdfunding website allows users to post project ideas, and individuals or businesses can give money to help make that project a reality. Having never heard of the site before this week, I decided to check it out so I could really understand how the site worked and what it had to offer.

Before looking at all of the projects, I wanted to get a better understanding of exactly how the site worked, so I clicked on the “What is KickStarter?” link at the bottom of the home page. I learned that the site funds a variety of projects including films, games, music and technology. The project creator has all creative control over the project, so project backers don’t have any control over the results. It would be a struggle for me to put money toward a project where I had no control over the outcome. If I’m investing, I want my input to be heard. But then again, I am a poor graduate student!

 I was most surprised to learn that in order for a project to be funded, the creator has to reach 100% of their fundraising goal – it’s all or nothing. As a creator, it would terrify me that I would set my goal too high, and I wouldn’t be able to reach it. I guess that’s the risk you take to get your product or idea out there.

KickStarter, crowdfundingAfter getting the basics down, I went straight to the projects. I decided to look at the different music projects. I’m a big fan of “American Idol” and seeing ordinary people become household names, and this platform vaguely reminded me of that concept. I clicked on a post by Monika Lidke, a singer hoping to raise enough funds to release her album, “If I was to describe you.” Her goal is to raise 1,500 pounds ($2,499.60) by Saturday, April, 26. So far her project has 26 backers.

When you can click on Lidke’s project, you can read a bio or watch a bio on her, and you can see video of her singing. On the side of the page, there is a list of different amounts of money that you can back, and what you will receive for backing the project. For instance, pledges of 7 pounds or more will receive a pre-release digital download of the album, plus a PDF file with all of the lyrics. Other incentives for backing Lidke’s project include a handwritten lyric sheet, a 60 minute singing lesson with Lidke, a song dedicated to you, or she will perform at your house or party. Now I finally understand some of the incentive for funding the projects. Not only are you helping out those struggling to make it, but you’re receiving a gift for your contribution. 

Another great aspect of KickStarter is that it allows you to search for local projects. If you know a local musician or author struggling to make their dream a reality, you can donate to their cause. One of the authors from my area on the site, already achieved his goal. For giving just $5, you would be announced in the Thank You section of the book. This is a great idea because it’s not costing him any extra money to mention backers, yet it gives people incentive to donate in order to see their names in print. KickStarter, crowdfunding

There are some really talented and created people on KickStarter, so I now understand why so many people have donated money to various projects on the site. If I wasn’t a poor graduate student, I’d be willing to make a contribution to some of the really talented people I found. If I had a great idea that I needed help funding, I would turn to KickStarter. As of now, that idea doesn’t exist, but if I think of one, I’ll know where to turn! There are also some projects that I’m not sure will reach their funding goals. It’s hard to back a musician when they don’t have any video or audio of them singing on their proposed project page. 

Googling “Lauren Roberts” – The curse of a common name

Google search, online reputation management, "Lauren Roberts"

This week’s assignment is pretty familiar to me, because I’ve Googled myself more than once!I’ve always been a little curious about what information is out there about me, and what results show up first in search results. Because I’ve performed Google searches on myself before, I was well aware of the obstacle of having a common name. In previous searches, I had to go beyond just “Lauren Roberts” to find results that actually related to me. Putting previous results aside, I Googled “Lauren Roberts” once more to discover if my online reputation had changed, and if I somehow managed to crawl up all of the “Lauren Roberts” results.

After searching “Lauren Roberts,” I was very excited when I clicked on the top link which was Facebook profiles for “Lauren Roberts,” and I saw my picture as the top result. Sadly, the excitement didn’t last long. I realized I was still logged into my Facebook account, and that’s why I appeared at the top of the results. I logged out of my Facebook account and conducted the Google search again. The second time, my profile didn’t appear at all. The same was true with the LinkedIn results which appeared as the second result on the first page.

Google search, online reputation management, "Lauren Roberts"The top results not related to any social network profiles were for Lauren Roberts & Co. Salon in Park Ridge, Illinois; Lauren Roberts, MD; and an article about some woman who threw a surprise birthday party for her husband. I went through 25 pages of Google results, and was unable to find anything that actually related to me. I was surprised to see how many mug shots for people who share my name showed up in the 25 pages of results. I can assure you, none of those are mine!

Google search, online reputation management, "Lauren Roberts"I have several different email accounts that I use regularly, so I decided to perform a search for each of those. I tried my undergrad email “l-roberts@onu.edu” first. Without quotes around the email, a bunch of unrelated links appeared. With quotes, Google was unable to find any results at all. When I typed in my UF email “laureneroberts@ufl.edu,” two results appeared, and they were both links for posts on my Blogger blog. Finally, success! I was surprised that my WordPress blog didn’t appear in the results. I guess I need to post more of my blogs on Google Plus so I might get more recognition. Lastly, I typed in “robertslauren19@gmail.com.” This email also yielded no results.

Despite a lack of results, I added several other keywords into the search query to see where I would appear in results. I was very excited that my LinkedIn page was the top result under “Lauren Roberts social media.” When typing in “Lauren Roberts Ohio Norhtern” (where I attended undergrad), I dominated the first page with photos and box scores from soccer games, my LinkedIn page, and some website that tracks people. I don’t know how the last one got my information because I didn’t submit it to them. When I searched “Lauren Roberts University of Florida,” my LinkedIn page was the first result and my Google Plus account appeared on the first page of results.

While it’s disappointing that my name alone didn’t garner more related results, it’s good to know that potential employers can still find my online presence if they add several obvious keywords. 

Retail Me Not Mobile App

Retail Me Not, Mobile App, Smartphone, TabletIn a world where media messages are fighting for your attention, and everyone is always connected to their smartphones and tablets, companies are creating mobile apps to aid in their marketing efforts. My iPhone is filled with all sorts of different mobile apps, from Angry Birds to Google Maps. I recently downloaded the free Retail Me Not app, in order to see how businesses are utilizing mobile apps. The app’s description stated that it contained thousands of coupons and deals to the places you love to shop. 

After downloading Retail Me Not, you’re asked if you would like push notifications. I opted out of this option because I already have too much going on on my phone. However, from the standpoint of a business, I think it’s good to ask consumers if they’ll allow the push notifications. If they say yes, you can constantly keep them updated with what’s going on with your business, and you can always remain fresh in their minds.

Retail Me Not, Mobile App, Shopping, Tablet, Marketing

After denying push notifications, I was asked if I wanted to find deals nearby. If you allowed theapp to track your location, they could tell you all the deals within your local area. While I normally wouldn’t allow most apps to track me, for the sake of my research, I allowed the app to access my location. Upon my approval, a long list of stores appeared on my screen. It wasn’t just clothing stores, it was restaurants, auto supply stores, etc. Along with the store name, it showed the deal that was being offered. For example, Best Buy was offering 20 percent off small appliances, in store and online. If you find a deal that you like, you have the option of saving it on the app, that way you can access it when you’re in the store.

Retail Me Not, Mobile App, Shopping, Tablet, Marketing

If you want to access the deal right away, you can click on the image and either claim the offer or share it with friends. I clicked on share to see where Retail Me Not allowed consumers to tell their friends about the deal. App users can share deals viatext message, email, Facebook or Twitter. The share feature is great because it will help attract more people to the Retail Me Not App. If you see one of your Facebook friends sharing a deal, you’re more likely to access that deal because you know who they are and you have already established trust with that person.

If you want to go beyond local deals, you have the option of searching trending deals. You can choose to search in-store deals or online deals. I was impressed by the number of deals for national retailers within the app. If you’re looking for a specific item but don’t have a specific store in mind, Retail Me Not allows you to search from a list of categories including: Automotive, Beauty, Clothing, Furniture, among many others. There really is something for every shopper.

 

Retail Me Not, Mobile App, Shopping, Tablet, Marketing

Finally, if you’re out and about and you spot a good deal, the app allows you to snap a photo and share your savings with other shoppers. The app takes the shopping and saving experience full circle.

Overall, I think the Retail Me Not app is beneficial for mobile users. They no longer have to worry about carrying around or finding that coupon, because they have them right at their fingertips. I will definitely be saving the app on my phone and using it to score some deals the next time I’m at the mall or going out to dinner! 

Second Life: Get me out of here!

Second Life, virtual world, avatar

Listening to Fergie in a club, prior to my makeover.

This week I left the “actual world” and entered the virtual world of Second Life. When logging on, I had the option of choosing an avatar, none of which came close to resembling me. I assumed once I entered into Second Life, I’d be able to customize my avatar more so it would be a better representation of me. After downloading the program (which I had to do on a PC because it wouldn’t work on my Mac), I found my avatar on the beach, surrounded by other avatars. An avatar near me started chatting with me, but he didn’t speak English so I didn’t engage in the conversation. Before I started chatting, I decided to get my profile in order. I was hesitant to get into too much detail by saying that I was conducting research, so I just wrote that I was a “Midwestern girl, 20-something, exploring a virtual world.”

Amidst the sound of ocean waves, I could hear the sound of typing. Eventually I figured out that I was involved in a group conversation. I was put in a precarious position when an avatar near me asked if I was in Second Life for fun or for research. I decided to reveal the truth, she wished me good luck and that was the end of the conversation.

After finishing the conversation, I decided to explore more of the island. I made my avatar run around the island (I’d been sitting down trying to figure out SL for awhile, so at least one of us was getting in shape!). After exploring the island on foot, I decided to give flying a whirl. I assumed my avatar would fly around obstacles, so poor virtual me ran my head into many boulders! I finally figured out that if you clicked to places on the map, your avatar would travel to where you clicked.

Upon finishing my tour of the island, I decided to work on my avatar’s appearance. I was shocked that you could control the most minute details of your appearance, including how much your butt swayed when you walked! I spent awhile trying to get my avatar to look like my actual appearance, but the end result looked nothing like me.

I played around with teleporting and explored some of the free worlds in Second Life. Most of the places I teleported were clubs, where I struggled to get my avatar to dance. Dancing is surprisingly a lot easier in the actual world than it is in the virtual world! I finally thought I had figured it out, and I got so excited when the avatar next to me on the dance floor sent me a direct message. He asked me if I was ok. Confused about the question, I answered with a simple question mark. He informed me that I was running in place…so much for dancing! I must have run right out of the club because before I knew it, I was in a completely different building.

Next, I explored an island that was supposed to be for people just starting out in Second Life. I thought this might be the best place to try and start conversations with people, because we we’re all learning together. I direct messaged a couple of the people around me, and they were all really helpful in helping me navigate the virtual world. One of the people who I talked to was someone named Jeff. Here is our conversation:

Me: Hi!

Jeff: Hello

Me: Do you play this game a lot?

Jeff: Yeah, quite a bit. Why, what’s up?

Me: I’m just starting out, and I’m not really sure what to do.

Jeff: This is a good place to start, things all over the walls that you can read to get started.

Me: Ok thanks, just trying to figure it all out.

Jeff: It’s not so much a game, but you should read that tutorial behind you.

Second Life, virtual world, avatar

My avatar, post-makeover.

The conversation continued, he helped me find other clothes, and tried to help me fix how Second Life appeared on my laptop. Turns out, the PC I was using wasn’t so great, and that’s why the majority of the Second Life world appeared purple to me. I asked others similar questions, and got a grasp of the Second Life lingo. Besides learning that the people in Second Life don’t like it to be referred to as a game, I learned they always distinguish between SL (Second Life) and RL (Real Life).

Second Life reminded me a lot of middle school and high school, when I was nervous to talk to new people, and I would spend a couple minutes looking at an instant message before I actually pressed the send button. After spending some time on Second Life, I have a better understanding of how it could be a useful classroom tool. The anonymity made it easier to talk to people, which would benefit an education setting because students could participate in conversations without the fear of raising their hand in class. On the other end of the spectrum, I also experienced why Second Life is frowned upon. During my stay on the newcomer island, one of the people who started up a conversation with me told me he was going to take my “SL virginity,” within seconds of saying hi. As a parent, I wouldn’t allow my child to enter the virtual world.

After spending five hours on the site, I was definitely happy to log out of the virtual world, and get back to my actual life!