Faceboo!

FacebooWell, in a not entirely unexpected manipulation of user’s personal information, Facebook is facing criticism after it emerged it had conducted a psychology experiment on nearly 700,000 users without their knowledge.

The test saw Facebook modify news feeds to tailor which emotional expressions the users were exposed to. The research was done in collaboration with Cornell University and the University of California at San Francisco to assess if “exposure to emotions led people to change their own posting behaviours”.

Facebook said there was “no unnecessary collection of people’s data”. Quite who the arbiter of “unneccessary” is, we are not told. “None of the data used was associated with a specific person’s Facebook account,” the social networking behemoth added.

Some, though, have criticised the way the research was conducted and raised concerns over the impact such studies could have.

“Let’s call the Facebook experiment what it is: a symptom of a much wider failure to think about ethics, power and consent on platforms,” Kate Crawford posted on Twitter. Meanwhile, Labour MP Jim Sheridan, a member of the Commons media select committee has called for an investigation into the matter.

“This is extraordinarily powerful stuff and if there is not already legislation on this, then there should be to protect people,” he was quoted as saying by The Guardian newspaper. “They are manipulating material from people’s personal lives and I am worried about the ability of Facebook and others to manipulate people’s thoughts in politics or other areas. If people are being thought-controlled in this kind of way there needs to be protection and they at least need to know about it.”

The research was conducted on 689,000 Facebook users over a period of one week in 2012.

According to the report on the study: “The experiment manipulated the extent to which people were exposed to emotional expressions in their News Feed”.

The study found that users who had fewer negative stories in their news feed were less likely to write a negative post, and vice versa.

I think, in the REAL world, we call that “empathy”.

Adam Kramer of Facebook, who co-authored the report on the research, said: “We felt that it was important to investigate the common worry that seeing friends post positive content leads to people feeling negative or left out. At the same time, we were concerned that exposure to friends’ negativity might lead people to avoid visiting Facebook.”

“I can understand why some people have concerns about it, and my co-authors and I are very sorry for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused.”

So, no apology for the gross infringement of privacy, or the cynical manipulation of Users in a social experiment with almost zero validity, then.

Google ‘My Business’

Google My BusinessBye-Bye, ‘Places’; hello, ‘My Business’

Google has today launched a brand new function (well, re-hashed Google ‘Places’) known as Google ‘My Business’. It might be a surprise to existing users, but it looks to have great features and advantages. Here’s a quick summary:

You access My Business by logging into Google via your business account. The new feature is currently accessible for page owners via Places or Google+, but more log in options are likely to come along. Here is a handy guide to the new Google My Business hub:

The Home Page has changed:

Before the changes, finding the Dashboard for your business page meant using the menu on the left. Now your homepage has all the main Google business functions in one place by default.

You now have a Google+ Status share box, Google+ Insights and at last, Google Analytics and Google Hangouts/YouTube all in quick start menus.

Google+ Analytics
Social media managers: you now have some sensible Google+ page analytics that you can actually use to tailor your campaigns

We can now see segmented data showing page views and how they are split, engagement with your posts and Audience (or follower) growth. You can track data from the last 7 days, 30 days or 90 days.

While Google+ analytics data still some development needed, this is a great step forward and one that Google+ sceptics will certainly be happy about. Though it doesn’t quite address the ‘point’ of Google+.

Analytics and Hangouts at your fingertips.

If you co-manage a Google account for a client, this overview feature means that your clients can log into their accounts and view a snapshot of their performance. This means they can quickly access the data that’s important to themto help planning. You might find that it keeps you on your toes!

Additionally, you can launch a hangout from the main menu which is great for those using Hangouts for internal meetings with their team and external catch ups with clients. Hangouts have many possibilities for businesses that stretch beyond the traditional ‘webinar’ set up, so we love this function.

The Google+ status box is a bit of a hinderance, but overall, we think its a great step forward (© Google Product manual 😉 )

Need some help with this? Give us a call

Google Checkout

google_checkout_crashUsing Google Checkout? What to do when it ‘retires’.

You may not be aware, but Google is ceasing support for online payments using Google Checkout. Ostensibly this is to improve support for the Google Wallet payments system, but I’ve a sneaky suspicion that it is also a move to reduce UK tax liabilities, as it stops UK-based transactions. (Author’s opinion may be rubbish – Ed).

Anyhoo. If you do currently use Google Checkout, the recommendations from Google are to migrate to other online Payment systems such as Braintree & Shopify. To save you the bother, we’ve done some preliminary investigations, and although we can’t speak for their quality, their payment structure is far closer to other Merchanting services with a monthly fee and minimum monthly transactions. This would make it far more costly for the small-scale user than the ‘per transaction’ commission levy of Google Checkout.

The primary alternative then is Paypal, either the Web Payments Standard account, or Paypal Professional. Web Payments is a per-transaction fee, and your customers would be making purchases from a Web page. The transaction itself is offsite, on the Paypal system, so while it is very secure, branding and customisation opportunities are limited. Paypal Professional will also allow offline payments through a console, so gives a flexible merchanting service, but with a monthly subscription feel, as well as the Paypal ‘commission’. Professional also requires a SSL certified server, as the owners website manages the credit card information, but at least this keeps the customer on-site for the shopping experience.

There is more information on Paypal, Web Payments Standard and Paypal Professional here:

An alternative is the Brit ‘Nochex’ system, which can be found here: There are 2 types of account, but probably most businesses will want the, account. A setup form is here:

The Author has no connection with Paypal, its affiliates, and is not recompensed for this article. More’s the pity.

Whither Twitter?

Dead_TwitterWhat’s happened to the Twitter feed on my website?

Ah yes – the deafening question from millions of frustrated website owners. The simple (maybe a bit harsh) answer is that Twitter gone broke it. They’ve changed the authorisation needed to collect the Twitter timeline feed, such that the simple method previously employed not longer works. Feeling geeky? There’s more technical information here:

Grrr! What do I do about it

Ok. The answer to that is there is now the need to build an ‘App’ to access your Twitter feed, using a number of authorisation ‘keys’ Frankly this is all a bit of a pain, since the timeline is public access anyway, but, “their house, their rules”, so we’re stuck with it. Yet more geeky information here:

The simplest solution, really, is get us to fix it for you. This would be an ideal opportunity to look at the wider opportunity to check your website maintenance arrangements, since there are going to be changes out of your control such as this cropping up frequently. The more connected we are, the more those connections can fail on us.

Cookie Anyone?

Choco_chip_cookieThere have been changes to EU Privacy legislation (yawn!) , but it means that all website owners now need to have a ‘Cookies Policy’ which notifies users of what cookies are used on the site, what they are for, and how to control them. The legislation came into being on May 2011, and there has been a ‘watch & see’ for a year, but now all websites have to comply.

Many sites uses cookies for, basically, Google Analytics, Content Management, and Shopping Carts. We can sort you a proper cookies audit, a compliant cookies policy and update the site to suit. It’s a bit of work to go through, but we can cover for a flat £250 +VAT. If your looking for a complete new site, we will now incorporate this into the project spec.

There is more info here: aboutcookies.org.

As sites have to comply by the end of May, the usual process seems to be that if you have an action plan then any user complaints are disregarded, so let us know if this would help. We have quite a few lined up!

For over 17 years we have delivered quality web sites, effective internet marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO), online stores and graphic design for clients in Stockport, Manchester and the North West.

We have worked with the biggest of blue-chip clients such as Pfizer, Cadbury, NHS etc, as well as numerous small/micro businesses that all appreciate our approach of plain-speaking, professional service.

We can help your company stand out from the crowd and reach more people faster by creating custom-made, highly creative digital and web-based communications that work.

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