Online community ethics

Are you on Facebook? Who isn’t these days? Here’s a question about using Facebook as an extension of work or classroom learning. Is it ethical to force people (over whom you have some power & authority) to use Facebook, a proprietary platform that tracks users & sells their data to third parties?

I ask this question to organizational community managers, teachers, professors and even companies. For example, if I want to interact with our national public broadcaster, it seems the preferred venue is “The Facebook”. Last December I put my Facebook account into hibernation (you cannot actually delete your Facebook profile). Since then, I have had many offers to join groups or engage in communities on the platform, all assuming that, of course, I use Facebook.

For those of us who understand these technologies, are we doing a disservice by not promoting a free & open web? People learn most from modelling the behaviour of their peers. For those of us who have been online for some time now, what kind of tacit examples are we providing?

Educators and facilitators of organizational learning need to have a conversation about the open web and understand the implications of their actions. It is more than just owning our data, it’s having some control over our collective digital future.

Update: A good article on what online walled gardens are doing to us: I killed the Internet


Jaron Lanier: The False Ideals of the Web – via @jhagel

The obvious strategy in the fight for a piece of the advertising pie is to close off substantial parts of the Internet so Google doesn’t see it all anymore. That’s how Facebook hopes to make money, by sealing off a huge amount of user-generated information into a separate, non-Google world. Networks lock in their users, whether it is Facebook’s members or Google’s advertisers.

Wired – Dirty Little Secrets: The Trouble With Social Search

Still, this potentially marks a real transformation to the way we have looked for information on the web, one with real winners and losers. It also signals a real danger to the balance of power between users and megacompanies. We are increasingly moving from a bottom-up web, where users vote with their links, keyboards and their clicks to show what’s relevant to them, to a top-down web where that’s doubly or triply mediated by browsers, search engines and social networks.

Oopsie! The Audacious iBooks Author EULA – via @nwinton

Apple, in this EULA [end user license agreement], is claiming a right not just to its software, but to its software’s output. It’s akin to Microsoft trying to restrict what people can do with Word documents, or Adobe declaring that if you use Photoshop to export a JPEG, you can’t freely sell it to Getty. As far as I know, in the consumer software industry, this practice is unprecedented. I’m sure it’s commonplace with enterprise software, but the difference is that those contracts are negotiated by corporate legal departments and signed the old-fashioned way, with pen and ink and penalties and termination clauses. A by-using-you-agree-to license that oh by the way asserts rights over a file format? Unheard of, in my experience.

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