If Facebook is a Bad Way To Rate People, What Do You Do About It?

Standing out at 6AM walking the dog, some days you just end up having a conversation that stops you and makes you think.  I was talking with one of my Dog Friends about various issues and he asked me how do I handle Facebook.  He knows that I do social media for a number of small organizations and what did he think about it for hiring.   I told him that it’s not the best thing to rely on, but it can be one tool, even if it is imperfect.

If you are looking through job boards, you see some pretty strange requests.

Applicant must friend (specific name of C Suite Employee).
or worse
Applicant must present Facebook sign-on credentials upon interview.

First thing first… skip that ad.  It’s a sign that that particular organization may not be too aware of the current trends.

Second, if a company demands that you give them your sign on information, it’s a sure sign that they don’t realize the importance of computer security. 

Since most people have layers of sign-ons where they repeat passwords, or worse, use the same place everywhere, that’s a bad idea.   If person goes in, gives HR their sign-on for Facebook, then their Amazon account gets hacked and they end up paying for all sorts of identity theft and fraudulent purchases, the company is liable for all expenses – especially if the thief is connected to the company no matter how tenuous that connection is.

But since “we all” have a Facebook account, is it a valid indicator of how well someone would work out in a company?  Studies say that it is a “weak indicator”. 

Most people will blindly click “like” on a picture that flies by if they are amused by it or it touches them in some way.  The assumption is that you have a preference toward the product when you’re really just being supportive of the poster.

It will be an accurate indicator if someone is somewhat out of control.  Posting lewd pictures, violent videos, or drug use most likely will show that someone might need some counseling.   Get back to me after you work out your issues with those things and we’ll talk.   You will be skipped over, I know I’d do that myself.

For someone in a technical field, poor writing skills are a definite problem.  I’ve been given what was intended to be programming specifications for a major upgrade to a program that I have had to throw away because the systems analyst was using circular references, sentence fragments, and missing bullet points. 

Much easier to go directly to the internal client and ask what they really want.  Besides, it got me away from the desk and a really cool person to work with…

But the mastery of technical writing is beyond some people and that shows up quickly in a text medium like Facebook.  It may not be germane to the position, but it will easily show if someone is writing long missives that get lost somewhere in the wilderness. 

Ok, I’ll admit that I tend to write prose and Hemingway is not my own writing style.  I’m Not Terse.

The bottom line is that these same HR people are being asked about their hires after they get in.  Six months after you start a job, you’re on your way.  That is if you make it past that sixth month review.  HR is being asked how did your opinions fit with their performance.  What they’re finding is that “Facebook Profiles were no better at prognostication than more traditional predictors”.

No better or worse than the old school “Lets Talk”.

So what do you take away from this if you’re out there looking for work and busting your hump?

If you have questionable material, look in the mirror.  Why is it really there?  Do you really need a picture of yourself standing in front of a Confederate Battle Flag with a rifle?  What does that say about your future anyway, you’re planning on running a plantation in South Carolina?  Not very likely.

Got a love for the herb?  Pot leaves everywhere?  You’re not a good candidate for the C Suite either.  You probably should move to Colorado and set up that legal dispensary if you can stay sober long enough.

Most people simply aren’t that “out there”.  They don’t proclaim their love of the edge so much simply because it’s way too much effort.  Society prefers the middle of the road and those people from the edge get nudged back into being more “normal” anyway, in many ways. 

I’d personally wager it simply doesn’t belong let alone having that sort of thing on Facebook.

But if it is you, remember you’re being watched.   Whether you can do the job or not won’t matter if you get a skittish HR person minding the gate.  Whether or not it really is a good predictor it won’t matter because you won’t get in the door.

Why it is a problem is that wonderful thing we call a “Herd Mentality”.  You’ve excluded what you consider the “nuts” but you end up looking at people who are just like you.  Since people who write more put themselves out more, those people who tend to will be more likely to be excluded.  In the US, the study found, those people tend to be Women, Black, and Hispanic.  So therefore the assumption is that diversity will be lowered and you’ll end up with a white male in the position.

Great if you’re a white male, but not so great if you are a latina or black woman who happens to be better at whatever the position is for.

So the solution is to self-audit what you post, and periodically go into your Facebook preferences and delete old posting’s audiences.  You can limit the posting’s visibility by going into the Facebook Settings, Privacy tab, and under “Who can see my stuff?” select “Limit Old Postings”.

What that does is to go through all your “old stuff” and limit the view to only your friends.   It doesn’t delete the material, it simply makes it so their friends can’t see them.

Or simply delete your Facebook profile.  If you don’t do social media professionally like I do, it may be your best bet.

Now they’re naming Winter Storms? Give Me A Break!

This morning, through all the web chaff I wade through, I made a stop to check the local weather for Fort LauderdaleThe Weather Channel‘s website went through a recent redesign to make it more social.  The problem is that it made it less useable and more difficult to actually get the information that I want to see on it.

I’ll work around it.  It’s not pretty but it will have to do.

The problem was that I loaded the page and my heart did that usual little flutter it does whenever I see that “Warning Will Robinson” red stripe at the top that screams there’s something to watch out for.    Reading it and dreading a late season Hurricane, I saw these words:

Breaking News:  What Will Winter Storm Brutus Bring?

I will tell you, it’s going to bring me laughing at The Weather Channel and refusing to take it seriously.  The Weather Channel is the channel that brings you all hype all the time, I realize that.  After all it had that bobble headed blond Jen Carfagno call the King Kamehameha Hotel in Hawaii the “King Kammey Hah-hah-hah” hotel, as well as quite a lot of misinformation when the Tsunami disaster happened in Japan a year back.

You basically want to hit the weather channel when they do the cut away every 10 minutes for the information and turn to something else when the bobble heads come back with their “news”.  My suggestion would be to turn to your family and talk about current events because the hype machine would roll on regardless.  I guess it drives Ad Revenue but frankly it feels a bit irresponsible, in my opinion.

The National Weather Service has just put out a message telling their people not to use these Winter Storm Names because they are not a part of their “product”.  It’s a pretty good idea not to.  All those names do is give more fuel to the hype machine.

My own reasons are pretty basic.   I lived in Metro Philadelphia most of my life.  I’ve been through countless winter storms.   Some of them were pretty scary and dumped more than two feet of snow on the roads.  I don’t want to minimize things, they can be dangerous.  But adding to the fear of preparation, such as going to the supermarket and “buy Milk, Eggs, and Bread” with your whole zip-code, is irresponsible.

No, really that’s the going joke.  Winter Storm is coming, you have to buy Milk, Eggs, and Bread and stand in line for hours.  After all, all your neighbors will be making French Toast the day of the storms because the cities have finally learned it makes more sense to close the main roads so your first responders can clear them and get to people who really DO need the help.

I think I’ll make French Toast later, come to think of it…

So I’ll be looking for a better place to get the weather information.  I’ve had quite enough of The Weather Channel’s hype machine and screaming red bars for a storm that basically works out to be a strong Tropical Storm and rarely, maybe once a year, a weak Category 1 Hurricane equivalent.  I want to know when the storms will form because I want to know my sister, her husband, and my nephew will be safe in New Jersey.  That goes for my cousins in New York City and The Island too, but the hype has got to go.

Time to change some links I guess.  The Weather Channel has rendered itself next to useless to me.   Since I stopped watching their blather on cable, I’ve found that I am actually better informed.  They’ve become the Fox News of Weather Forecasting.

And Friends Don’t Let Friends Watch Fox News.

How to Add Emails in Constant Contact

I get this question about twice a month.

“Hey, Bill!  I know you use Constant Contact for Wilton Manors Main Street, but how do you add new Email addresses?”

Actually it’s dead simple and there are five ways to do it.

My best recommendation is that you should add them to a spreadsheet, and save that in Excel to an xls file.  It can also be saved as a text file or a csv but since Excel wants you to save as an xls file, that’s the one to look for.

Why use Excel?  Simple, because that way you can use that tutorial I wrote yesterday to clean the data.  You can look for duplicates, sort it into alphabetic order, and it’s easy to go through and eyeball it for any strange looking addresses.  Also, if you have it in an Excel Spreadsheet, it will be a fairly easy matter for you to compare it to the result you get when you add your email contact list.

If not, you can type them in directly, or paste them in from any program that supports copy and paste.  Right now when you go through the steps, Constant Contact will present you with a light box with a place for you to paste in or type a list, one after another, each one per line.   Since the method I used in that tutorial yesterday will result in a column of email addresses, I am going to assume you’re going to use that program and method to get your list.  Simply highlight the column you need and CTRL+C to copy or right click and select copy from the dialogue pop up.

If you really hate Excel, you can also import them from your Gmail account or Outlook.  Those methods will pull everything down from those address books, so you may want to be very careful when you’re through to get rid of any inappropriate addresses… which is a good rule to follow any time you do a large “import” like this.

Method 1:  Copy and Paste

Log into Constant Contact.  On the right there is a Contacts tab that will get you into the Contacts Management Page.  There is a helpful button labeled “Add & Update”.  Click on the button and you will get to the page that I have pictured here. Since you have already copied into your clipboard the addresses you want from Excel, the next step is to paste them into the box labeled “Contact Email Addresses”.

Place your mouse cursor inside the box, click on it, then you may right click and select “Paste” from the pop up, or simply “CTRL+V” to paste in your address list. 

Once your list is in the box, click on the handy “Next” button at the bottom of the window, or click cancel if you have something in there that does not belong so you may try again.

The next screen that is brought up is the New List dialogue.  You can add your email addresses to an existing list by selecting the box next to the list on the left, or enter in a new list name in the box that I have highlighted in red on this picture.

For this blog posting, I entered in “Test” and then clicked on the Save button.  After it added the list Test with no entries, then click the Submit button at the bottom of the screen.

You will then be returned to the Add and Update web page with the Success Message.  You can select that list to look at the email addresses that you just added to make sure you did everything correctly.

Method 2: Import from Excel

Since I have this email list posting from yesterday that says how to go about creating a sorted list, I’m going to use this list that I saved in an Excel xls file to directly import the email addresses.  There will be none of that Copy and Paste exercise, since Constant Contact will do all that heavy lifting for you.

  • In the Contacts Add and Update page, click on the blue Add and Update button.
  • Select the third tab on the panel for From A Spreadsheet.
  • Click on the “Browse” button. 
  • A “standard” Windows dialogue box will pop up (if you are on Windows) to allow you to select your Excel Spreadsheet.
  • When you find the spreadsheet, click next on the bottom of the page.

The next page allows you to tell Constant Contact which column in the spreadsheet has the important information.  Constant Contact will allow you to add names and addresses as well, so you have the opportunity to import more than just an email list. 

Since my Excel Spreadsheet only has an email address column, I selected “email address” on the column 1 select box, and then clicked the Next Button at the bottom of the page.

Constant Contact then gave me the “Where The Contacts will be Saved” page. 

You may add a new list by entering in the new list name in the area that I highlighted in red, or select an existing list.

If the list is good, you will get a Success message saying that your email addresses have been added to Constant Contact.

One thing to keep in mind:  If you are adding many email addresses using the Spreadsheet method, Constant Contact does the add on it’s own schedule.  They may not show up immediately on your email list.  When I did it for this blog posting, I had to wait a few seconds before the imported spreadsheet showed up on its list.

LinkedIn, Facebook and the Creepy Factor

Today I was amused by a bit of LinkedIn email. 

Going through the morning online work, I spotted a piece of email from LinkedIn.  Most of us are familiar with Facebook by now.  Consider LinkedIn a Facebook for the Professional Set.  If you have a career instead of a job, you need to be on there.  The account that I use on there could be more effectively used, I am somewhat low on contacts.   Since I’m so busy maintaining the presence of Wilton Manors Main Street on Facebook and their Blog and watching over that of New Divine Mercy Church on Facebook, their Blog, as well as my own blog here, I tend to take a passive outlook.   If someone spots me, friends me, I accept, smile at the “good thoughts” and move on with a new relationship.

I don’t usually search for people unless there is a reason.  Once I found a whole wing of the family in Nebraska and another in Washington State, as well as being told of a branch that moved to Saskatchewan and set down roots.

This particular email was asking me if I knew some people.  Specifically it was the Mayor of Wilton Manors and one of the Commissioners.  Yep!  I know them both, but since I don’t tend to “bother” people without a good reason I chuckled and deleted the email. 

We’re all busy, right?  Why bother people…

That got me thinking about the ability to use social media for online stalking.  If the software knew that I should know the Mayor and the Commissioner and was right, what else does this online database know about us.

Privacy is done for.  Actually that isn’t completely true, you could always cut your credit cards and pay cash for everything.  With the laws in place for health and other records in the United States, if that information got out about you, you could make a tidy sum suing the company that had an “accidental” breach of your personal information, many people have.

Online privacy is non-existent.  As soon as someone posts their personal information on a website, and it is found by a search engine, you’re public.  May as well put it on a post-it or on one of those stickers that say “Hello, My Name Is” because it is that open.   Email is a Post Card medium.  It is sent out mostly unencrypted out to the world and anyone who wants to learn about you can find it with the right technology. 

Sure there are secured Email sites for such people who work in the Health Care and Insurance Industries for example, but they are not used by “normal folk” like you and me.

So what can you do about it?   Practically nothing these days.  If you use an email that is free and advertisement based, then your information is already out there including your private thoughts.  They aren’t private, no matter what.  This blog is public, it is scanned by all the search engines, and I do employ some Search Engine Optimization techniques to make sure that the articles I post aren’t just read today.   It also is hosted on Blogger which is a Google site.  Google finds my posts and scans them and indexes them.  That benefits me because it brings people in a wider audience than just my friends and family.

Now what happens to those databases?  You tell me…

The indexes and databases of websites and emails and all the other detritus of our lives that are online are a very good representation of our personal thoughts.  Go onto Facebook and like something and you establish a relationship.  That relationship can be inconsequential when you “Like” Food.  It could be something we consider positive when we Like our own nation or an allied nation.  It could be negative when we like a hate group – find them on your own, I won’t help you there. 

The bottom line is that it builds a very good psychological description of an individual.  This sort of thing has not gone unnoticed, and there are many people out there working in Social Networking and the analysis of the psychology of Social Networking.  After all, you can sell this information or protect your country against people who are out to commit crimes simply by looking over their shoulders at what they say about themselves.

The best thing you can do is step back next time you see that email or the friendly “Like” button and consider what it says about you.  After all, it is easier than trying to do it the Old School way.  Who among us has actually written a physical paper letter to a company telling them how well they did lately?  I know I haven’t!