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back to article Can you judge a man by his Twitter followers?

Is following someone on Twitter (or friending them on Facebook) an endorsement of that person? Social networking isn't going away, and increased corporate awareness of it means that systems administrators need to be prepared to answer these sorts of murky questions. As a case study, I am going to pick apart my own use of social …

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Working for someone who doesn't

understand that people can have different opinions about stuff is going to be a bigger problem in the long run.

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Spooky

I was only just thinking about how it's becoming increasing hard to maintain seperate work and personal spaces anymore. You can't just have a "work" twitter account and a "personal" one.

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Anonymous Coward

Almost 30?

Nice. But in which direction?

Must use that one myself...

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Re: Almost 30?

30 in October, sir. Wait...it's JULY already?!? :(

Closer than I thought...

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Re: Almost 30?

Trevor,

You're welcome to join me, skiing the downhill slope towards 40. I'll admit I'm rather closer to the finish line than you...

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Mushroom

Re: Almost 30?

How cute..." I am nearly 30".

I've been 30...twice so far. Now started working towards the third time. Not sure I'll make it that far...but as long as I stay away from all of this lame social networking crap...think I have a far better chance.

Refuse to use Farcebook, Twitter, or anything else like it. Totally uninterested.

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Coat

In the words of Bart

"I don't have any easy answers, but it is something we all need to consider." T Pott, 2012

"He says there aren't any easy answers, I say, he's not looking hard enough!" B Simpson, 1991

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Childcatcher

Can you ? Yes, should you ? No

There's no one answer to this other than 'it depends'. While I can and would argue that being prepared to listen is not the same as endorsement, I could quite easily be making this argument while packing my belongings under the watchful gaze of large men with blunt instruments. I personally suspect that we're going to see a few very high profile (and expensive) test cases on this sort of issue before 'best practice' is determined.

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'Follow' that 'friend'

I think you're getting stuck on the assumed meaning of 'follow' and 'friend'.

Use of the word 'follow'/'follower' can be used to mean that someone leads you and you follow because you believe in their ideas and opinions; it is also perhaps the most common interpretation. This verb has been chosen by Twitter but the proper word would be 'monitor'. If you 'monitior' someone's tweets, that is a practical description and has no implications for your belief.

(Note: The police 'follow' criminals in a variety of ways; this does not mean that they share their ideals and admire or agree with them.)

Similar arguments can be applied to the use of 'friend' in Facebook.

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Re: 'Follow' that 'friend'

Yes, but does your boss see it that way. Or, for that matter, the HR droids at the company you've just applied to work at?

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Re: 'Follow' that 'friend'

In answer to your question: Most likely not. We all have to deal with pointy haired fools and venal, scum sucking HR droids.

I was answering the author's question, "Is following someone on Twitter (or friending them on Facebook) an endorsement of that person? ".

I fully agree with the content and sentiment of the article. As you go through life, idiots throw turds at you and you need a good batting technique to deal with them.

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Re: 'Follow' that 'friend'

I agree with you. As, I think, does our Canadial friend Trevor. What he said was that younger people see this separation between private and corporate web presence - but management, who are older (and more technophobe), don't.

It was hard to get (in)famous a few years ago. Not so much now, and still getting easier. 20 years ago you couldn't send a nasty email to your prospective daughter-in-law telling her in minute detail how to behave, let alone have it splashed in all newspapers and laughed about on comedy shows.

20 years ago a few people might hear that kind of story, and it might impact on your employment prospects if your social and professional circles mixed, otherwise no-one would know. After a few months people might remember the story, but not the name, so you could also live it down.

Now, if HR do a Google search on your name, that'll be right at the top of the list. Of course they still have to work out if you're the same person. So not only has our capacity for Z list celebrity increased, but our capacity for public forgetting has also decreased. Society is going to take many years to adjust to all this.

Perhaps we should have a discussion as to what the best turd batting technique is? Sometimes a good (Boycott like) forward defensive stroke. Other times, braining the offending PHB with your bat, and burying the body behind the pavilion might be preferable...

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Anonymous Coward

Social vs Commercial Networking

I recently hit this dilemma when I left a personal review (using a personal account) of a product which had been purchased by the company I work for. My company received a cease and desist letter accusing the company itself of 'slander'. The product sellers were morons and nothing was slanderous about my personal experience of their product.

Neither my company nor manager had a problem with it; nevertheless I was 'advised' by my manager that I should probably withdraw the review - as it could affect a totally unrelated, but sensitive, project I was working on should these dunces pursue legal action.

My company currently has a fairly decent attitude towards these things - they don't see it as a PR threat to be controlled, but like it or not, there are some idiots out there who will try to drag your company and reputation into it regardless. Therefore, even if a court of law would determine your speech was your own opinion and truthful experience - it doesn't mean that your immune to acts of stupid or that you won't at some point you will be discussing it with your boss.

One way I think the problem could be reduced is to simply ban commercial entities from even having social network accounts... after all, the key is in the name "social". Social networks should be ruled entirely people-based (and I mean carbon-based bags of meat kind). Alternative services should be sought for commercial networking. I can't recall how many times (before the advent of 'pages') I saw facebook accounts set up for companies and small businesses of friends and they were pretty cringe-worthy and annoying back then.

--- tl;dr ---

I've already been confronted by this problem, leaving a personal negative product review - which brought a silly legal complaint against my company. IMHO a lot of the issues could be solved by kicking commercial entities off 'social' networks altogether reducing confusion and legal complexity.

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Big Brother

Re: Social vs Commercial Networking

"I recently hit this dilemma when I left a personal review (using a personal account) of a product which had been purchased by the company I work for"

The product had been purchased by your company, not by you. You had presumably used the product as part of your work. I'm not saying the suppliers of the product were right to issue a "cease and desist" letter. But in this situation, I don't think you can realisitically separate your "private" persona from your "company representative" persona. It was you, as a company representative, who used the product. It was you, as a private individual, who left the review. They are both the same "you..."

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Social Networking? It's all about opinions.

There's an old saying; "Opinions are like arseholes, everybody's got one.", which has a corollary; "If everyone's got one, then arseholes have opinions too.".

With that in mind, you then consider another old saying; "You can't please all the people all the time."

Or, put another way; "A strange game. The only winning move is not to play."

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Mushroom

Re: The only winning move is not to play.

Unfortunately you can't get all Global Thermonuclear War on their arses.

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Perhaps some of this is going to have to be handled by better clients or interfaces. For example, Twitter's completely open to outside view from the web, so I guess multiple accounts is the only way to differentiate. Then you need a decent client that can merge the input from the 2 (or more) accounts, so you don't have the hassle of dealing with it. Maybe this is already available? I don't really use Twitter, so I'm not up on how good the clients are.

With Facebook and Google plus you can restrict who sees what, at least somewhat. Though both would probably like to make everything public. Maybe a desktop app that allows you to control the UI a bit more would make sense here. Given how awful the Facebook UI is. You could have it only display 'client friendly' stuff. It could also watch the privacy settings for you, so every time FB sneakily change them you're still set-up right. Again something like this could handle multiple accounts.

I guess the other answer is wait. In 10-15 years time such a significant proportion of the workforce will have made monumental arses of themselves online, in ways that can be easily traced to them, that most people will just forget about it. Society is pretty slow to adapt its attitudes to new stuff.

I suppose another alternative would be to release a virus onto the internet, that gets onto every computer and smartphone, which deletes all content attached to your name that you don't approve of. Or less ambitiously just get it onto the clients' machines...

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Multiple personalities

I have five facebook accounts; personal-family, personal-general, and anonymous, techy, and hobby. I also have five email accounts. The personal-general is my domain and I use the company name of the other end as the @ name to allow filtering and checking whose selling my details to spammers, the others are gmail/hotmail accounts. I also have two twitter feeds.

All to allow me to say what I want using my anonymous, to say stuff without swearing using my family email, converse about my hobby without work or family getting in the way. etc. You get the picture.

So many personalities to keep track of.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Multiple personalities

Maybe you should look into Qubes OS to help you keep them all separate :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Multiple personalities

"So many personalities to keep track of."

and not one of them a genuine reflection of self.

Hmmmm, and people wonder why I NEVER use social media?

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I confess I'm the younger generation who keep Facebook\Twitter as a purely 'social' medium. Locked down accounts and selective adding of real friends negates the boss problem of reading your tweets. Simple. Corporate presence is simply the industry playing catch up (and slowly destroying the medium in the process).

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Anonymous Coward

"selective adding of real friends negates the boss problem of reading your tweets. Simple"

Not true. How can you control friend of friends? There is no way you can stop others from releasing information.

The only genuinely true way to prevent it is to have no social profile. Not like your missing anything exciting!

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Anonymous Coward

"Corporate presence is simply the industry playing catch up "

But too many of your kin wish to express their love for Coke/Head and shoulders/Macdonalds/<insert name>.

Do you really give a shit about what your so-called friends (the ones that you don't actually meet on a regular basis) "like"?

Social media suckers are the advertisers dream. If they buy into that, they'll buy into anything (espc. if it looks glass/chrome and 80's wallpaper).

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Anonymous Coward

"Younger folks seem to see personal accounts on social networks as entirely personal. We view them as vehicles for personal --exploitation-- that should be considered separate and distinct from our employers, clients and so forth."

Fixed that for you.

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Everything old is new again

If you use a personal account for work, it ceases to be a personal account, and yes, your employer is then obligated to do due diligence and ensure all use of that account is within guidelines.

Of course, if you use a personal account for work in the first place, you're an idiot and probably need someone to hold your hand to protect you from the big bad interwebs anyway.

The thing is, though, this is not something new with social networking. If you wrote a letter to the editor 100 years ago and mentioned your employer or position there were the same expectations then.

So, enough with the hand-wringing over something that was settled long ago.

Keep your work out of your personal accounts, and your personal out of your work accounts, and you'll never have an issue.

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"Maintaining multiple accounts, regardless of the purpose, is a violation of Facebook’s Terms of Use. If you already have a personal account, then we cannot allow you to create business accounts for any reason. "

So a business is going out of their way to force people to break the terms of service.

(Wouldn't be a problem for me as I don't use Facebook for any personal communication if my job required it then I could use it).

Whereas I am fairly liberal about what people do for non commercial purposes when you are a business or doing something commercially you should follow the rules 100%.

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"Maintaining multiple accounts, regardless of the purpose, is a violation of Facebook’s Terms of Use. If you already have a personal account, then we cannot allow you to create business accounts for any reason. "

Is that current? It seems totally at odds with reality. It implies that that the whole FB image management industry is against FB's Ts & Cs. It also implies we can get any FB account closed if we demonstrate that the person who created it already had an account (personal or otherwise). Oh what fun that could be...

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Facebook names

@Cpt Blue Bear

BBC: Salman Rushdie claims victory in Facebook name battle

And weren't Google+ insisting on real names?

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SoaG,

That's all very well, and I don't disagree. But if you wrote a letter to the editor 100 years ago no-one had any easy way of searching for that fact. So you might be famous for 15 minutes, but that was it. Unless you made a really huge splash.

Nowadays that letter to the editor is available on Google. As is any post you make in a public forum.

For me, this is no problem. Most of my online presence is through pseudonyms anyway, as my real name isn't relevant. I'm also relatively careful - which a lot of people don't understand how to be. But you only have to do something that puts your head above the parapet a little, and you're very visible. Like writing an occasional column for El Reg. Or promoting your company on Twitter. If you're also then personally on Twitter, this becomes even more of a problem, as your professional and personal identities can merge.

The combination of a massive searchable archive of stuff, the lack of ability to delete anything and a lack of social norms to deal with it is going to present problems for years.

As an example, some 16yo's get drunk. Naked/semi-naked photos go online and go viral. Have all participants lost the ability to become teachers / social workers / politicians for life?

Orlowski keeps banging on about copyright being a tool for people to be able to say, 'that data is mine and you must delete it'. Maybe he's got a point? Either society is going to have to change, and become more forgiving of minor mistakes, or we're going to need to find a way of stuffing the genie back in the bottle when kids do stupid things online. Perhaps we could try some sort of firewall / Chinese wall in HR, where only one person is allowed to Google employees and know all that bad stuff they did when they were young/drunk/unhappy. This problem's going to get worse before it gets better. If we're not careful some people may end up having miserable lives, being locked out from working in large sectors of the economy.

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Anonymous Coward

So happy

I have no Facebook account.

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Silly Physicists

... Facebook is a testament to the obvious: You can tell a Higgs Boson by it's quack and ducky sort of walk. Everybody knows this. Sheesh.

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The problem are the idiots who expect you to be on Facebook.

I have no problem with anyone wanting to use any social media or any other website (certain illegalities aside) . However, when they then expect you to have to sign up to, for example, see the pictures they took of their new baby or to organise a party -- then I have a problem.

As somebody who is opinionated and interested in contentious subjects I am as careful as possible never to use my real name or the real name of my employer (or anyone else) on the internet. This is so that if, for example, I post on El Reg something critical of the Pope I'm not then in the slightest bit worried if I happen to apply for a job which involves mowing some church lawns.

It could be said I could sign up to Facebook and only use it to view baby photographs and check event times but what happens when I don't use it for a year and it's hacked, the privacy settings change, or similar? You also have problems off cross-linking with other things if some twunt uses your handle along with your name or some such which are a lot less likely to happen when real names aren't part of the medium at all.

It also seems the height of pointlessness to sign up to something to not use it.

I love online discussion and find it actually helpful knowing the extent of views and opinions -- online debate has both changed and strengthened my views on many subjects. I doubt, however, that some subjects would even have been discussed with real names attached.

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Why would following constitute endorsement?

Is it an endorsement of an individual – and by extension all of their speech – to follow that individual?

That has to be one of the silliest philosophical questions I've ever read in (serious) print.

Outside of repressive regimes (whether political, religious, etc) which make "wrong thinking" a moral error, when in the history of ethics has anyone with any credibility seriously proposed that attending to the expressions of others constitutes endorsement of those expressions? You can't have debate without interlocution, so the only alternative is an antipolitics of deliberate ignorance.

I'm not particularly fond of ethical philosophies that fetishize communication as the repository of the Good (eg Habermas), but it's hard to see how you can have a civil society without public communication and something like Habermas' "communicative rationality". And that necessarily includes attending to opinions you disagree with.

That's not to say that some idiots wouldn't equate paying attention to someone's tweet stream with agreeing with that person. But there will always be idiots, and letting them make the rules has never been a good idea.

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Re: Why would following constitute endorsement?

And for the record, I have a Twitter account. I follow one person. I have 52 followers. I have never posted a single tweet.

What does that say about my followers? Are they endorsing my silence? If so, they're not having much success (outside Twitter).

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Re: Why would following constitute endorsement?

You raise a good point that the author missed: Who is to say you only follow those you like? If I follow Microsoft, for example, I would likely do it to keep up with developments regarding my work -- despite actually being unimpressed by their software and being a Linux advocate. If I spent more time on Twitter I may well follow the EDF or BNP but should anyone suggest I supported either I would sue for libel if able -- I would follow them to see just how ignorant people can become as that kind of knowledge interess me.

As a lesser example, wouldn't a sensible marketing department follow and friend the competitor to see how they do it?

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FAIL

Re: Why would following constitute endorsement?

"That has to be one of the silliest philosophical questions I've ever read in (serious) print."

You're making a category error. This question isn't being framed as a philosophical musing. It's posing a practical question around the differences in expectations between both generations as well as employers/employees. The effects of these differences may have real consequences.

To paraphrase my earlier post, I'd love to watch you explain to the person making the rules that they are an idiot while being shown the door and invited to partake in a new career.

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Re: Why would following constitute endorsement?

Nicho has the right of it. Philosophy is not relevant to a systems administrator blog. The practical application and real world effects of other's people's philosophies are. I am not here to grapple with right and wrong. I am here to examine how the world is, and attempt to deal with it.

Preferably whilst remaining on the more profitable side of any transaction.

The fact that there are so many viewpoints on what is or isn’t acceptable, “good practice” and so forth makes social media – be it talking about work with friends at the bar, or using Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn – a professional minefield. This is not “settled.” This is not something that “we have established law/social moores/etc” for.

Each generation seems to have new technologies, new social mediums, new takes on the work/life split and new appreciations for the liberties that should be afforded to the individual. In modern America, unions are a curse word. Corporations are viewed as morally deserving of rights and freedoms. Even (sometimes especially) in a fashion that supersedes those of individuals, workers and even governments.

This isn’t true in Canada, and nearly ever nation in Europe has a different take form the next. Hell, Within my province of Alberta alone, I can name you five different cities where the prevailing attitudes of corporate/personal rights (and the balance that needs be maintained between them) is completely different one from the other.

Social media is the most visible battle ground for these philosophical, political and economic debates. But it is one where the questions at hand meet the real world implementations requested and required of systems administrators.

You may be asked to set up social media. You may be asked to monitor social media usage from within your network. You may be asked to monitor social media posted by employees outside the corporate network. You may be asked a lot of things.

How will you deal with it? How have you dealt with it? Are you in a position to back up your morals? Hell, what are your morals in this regard? If you are in a position to back up your morals…will you take the risk?

This article isn’t a series of philosophical questions. This article is about the application of philosophy in the real world. Perhaps to some it is a minor difference, but I feel it’s an important one.

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Anonymous Coward

@Obviously!-15:20

I used to enjoy Coke/Head, but I have apparently completely missed out on shoulders/Macdonalds... Could you please enlighten me?

Pictures or diagrams as necessary...

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