Tag Archives: facebook

Facebook Timeline…once more, with feeling!

Good morning. Over the weekend, many Facebook users were told that as of August 4th, their profile pages would be switching to the new Timeline format. Let’s take a look at Timeline’s features and see how you can prepare for the big switch.

Facebook Timeline

New Features in Timeline

The major updates with Timeline are a new look for your own information and your Wall and an easier way to navigate a person’s history of posts in Facebook.

    Facebook Timeline's timeline

  • New layout. In Timeline, there’s a Cover photo up at the top (just like on many websites), your information underneath, and then your posts down below. On a laptop or desktop computer, you’ll see two columns of posts. On a mobile device (smartphone or tablet), you’ll just see one. The stories scroll down the page in reverse chronological order – newest first and older as you go.
     
  • Timeline to get to older posts. One of the big problems with the old profile page is that you could only go back a few dozen posts at a time. There was no way to see what you or someone else had written last month, last year, or back when you started on Facebook. Now, there’s a ‘timeline’ off to the upper right – just click on a year or month to look at posts from that time.
     
  • Cover photo. This image should be a large-ish, interesting picture either taken by you, of you, or is of something important to you. It’s the first thing people will see when they look at your Timeline, and you can have fun with it. Later this week, we’ll be adding a separate post on uploading photos to Facebook, to walk you through the process of adding a Cover photo.
     
  • New kinds of updates. From your timeline, you can add different Life Events and use Facebook as a true online documentary of your life.
    Facebook Life Events menu
     

A Few Facebook Tips

  • Change settings easily. Watch what happens when you put your cursor over things on the screen. There are a lot of settings hidden in plain sight on Facebook pages. Put your cursor over text, images, and empty boxes on the page and wait a moment – a box with an X, a small gear, or some text might appear on the right to offer you choices. Click on them to see what your choices are.
     
  • Edit link previews. When you post a link, Facebook automatically creates the link and adds an image if there is one. Remove the image by clicking the box next to No Thumbnail. Change the description by clicking on the text until it turns yellow, then delete or type until it says what you want it to.
     
  • Unfollow posts. If you’re tired of getting notifications for new comments on a post you’ve commented on, Unfollow it. Up at the top left, click on the globe icon and put your cursor over the latest notification for that post. Click on the X that appears in the box, and then click on Unfollow.
    Facebook's Unfollow feature
     
  • Create lists of friends. Now you can create different lists of friends, so you can easily choose which people can see which posts. Make a “Close Friends” list for the people you know well, add your parents and cousins to “Family,” and keep your “Work Friends” separate. You can also click on the list name under Friends on the left side of your News Feed page to just view posts by those people.
     

Why some folks don’t like it

Facebook has been moving users to the new Timeline for a few months now, and many people have said they don’t like it. Some don’t like the layout, some think it’s slow to load, some think it’s just broken. Some people don’t like the fact that it’s easier to get to older posts, and some don’t like all the ‘extra work’ they think the new layout makes them do.

But before you decide you don’t like it, please do three things:

  • Really try using it. Add a life event, look back at old posts you made when you first got on Facebook, add friends to lists, quickly and easily change settings on a post. Like your parents said, “Try it before you say you hate it.”
  • Remember that it only affects your personal page. Your news feed page will stay just the same.
  • See what Timeline does really well, and what your News Feed page does well. Ask yourself if it might be okay for one to work one way and the other, another?

In the comments or on the Learning for Life Online Facebook page, tell me what you think of Timeline. Good or bad – we want to know.

Help & Resources

Anyvite logo

Getting all together – Evite, Anyvite and other invitation tools

Anyvite logoWhen you’re planning parties this summer (or any time), online tools can make it easy to invite guests, track RSVPs, and send out messages and updates. Different tools have different features, but most of them will let you:

  • Create an event that includes the what, where, and when information
  • Send invitations to guests using email addresses or social network messages
  • Receive notifications as people RSVP
  • Easily send messages out ot all invitees, or any group of RSVP type (asking the Maybes to say yes or no, for instance)
  • Update event information on the page and notify guests of changes
  • Link to a map or directions to your event

Some tools will also help you organize a potluck or other party contributions, let you pick themes and offer recipe and decor suggestions, or include other party planning fieatures.

How Does It Work?

First, choose what tool you’re going to use. These are some of the more well-known invitation tools online:

  • Evite.com – the most well-known invitation tool; owned by Yahoo, but you don’t need a Yahoo account to use it
  • Anyvite.com – an alternative to Evite; simple to use
  • Punchbowl.com – a full party planning site
  • Signupgenius.com – think of it like an online sign-up sheet posted on a bulletin board; create a sign-up list for anything from a party to a potluck to a volunteer schedule

You can also use the event scheduling features of some social networks to create events and invite guests:

  • Facebook event is great if you and your guests use FB
  • Google Plus (G+) lets you easily create and manage events if you use G+ or just have a Google account
  • Tweetvite helps you invite folks to an event using Twitter
  • Google Calendar (or any other online account calendar) will let you create an event on your calendar and then invite others to it. If you want the basics, this is enough.

Then, create an event. You might need to sign up with the tool first, or it might let you just get going. Click Create an event or whatever the button is, and then fill in the day, time, location and other details. Click Save and you’ve done most of the work.

Next, there will be an option to Invite or Add Guests. Click on that and enter your guests’ email addresses or choose from a list of your social network friends. There will probably be a place to type in a message inviting them to the event – add something cheerful but don’t repeat all the information in the event itself. When you’ve got everyone entered, click on Send to send out the invitations.

If you need to change the event information or add guests, you can do that at any time. The tool you use will probably ask whether you want to send a message out with the updates or email the new guests – do this so your guests know that something has changed. You can also Send a Message to all guests or just folks who have RSVPd yes or maybe to give them the new details or remind them that the event is coming up. Some invitation tools will automatically add your event to your guests’ online calendars, and send them reminders as the date of the event approaches.

Since you probably used your email address to create the event or sign up for the tool, you’ll receive notifications as your guests RSVP. If not, you can always go back and visit your event to see who has said yes, no, or maybe so far.

Once the event is over, your event page can stay up as a place for people to leave messages telling you what a great time they had, or you can hide it. That’s usually your choice, depending on the tool you used.

How Is it Useful?

What’s most useful about this is that it lets you keep all your event information in one place, online, where your guests can see it and keep track of it and their RSVPs. It also lets you easily track RSVPs and attendance numbers for your event, and might even let you manage potluck or other party contributions all in the same spot. Just like many of the other things we’ve looked at, it’s a one-stop party planning powerhouse of a tool.

Try It Out

If you have Yahoo or Google, it’s easy to just create an event in your online calendar and invite a few guests using their email addresses.

If you want to do a bit more, try out Anyvite or Punchbowl for a complete party planning experience. Push the buttons and see what special features each tool has, and see which one works best for you and the event you’re planning.

If you’ve found any other online party planning or invite tools to be really helpful, post them in the comments below.

Help & Resources

Try One New Thing – Our 1st Anniversary Post

As we finish out June, we are also finishing up the first year of Learning for Life Online. For anyone who’s been reading along since the beginning: thank you. I’m going to work hard to make the second year of LLO as fun and fascinating as the first.

For our 50th post, I’d like to challenge you to choose one of the tools or services we’ve looked this past year and sign up for it or try it out. Pick something that intrigued you but you never got around to it, or something that looked ridiculous and you want to see if you were just missing something. Doesn’t matter how big or small a thing it is – just do it. Review the basics of playing with a new online tool or playing with a new gadget and remember to have fun!

Try One New Thing and play around with it for the month of July. As you try it, comment on this post with your experience or thoughts, and any suggestions you have for using it.

Rather than make you go back through the past year to look for your one new thing, here’s a quick reference list:

It takes time to make a social tool a part of your life, including your life online. Whatever you choose to do, give it to the end of July and then see what you think of it. Let us know here if your opinion has changed, and how.

Thank you all again for following along, and enjoy your One New Thing! See you in July…

Social Games – Playing together, wherever you are

Going from practical to fun, let’s look this week at social games – those games you see everyone playing on their smartphones, tablets and laptops.

What Are They?

Social games are exactly that: online games that you can play on a social network like Facebook, or games that require social activity to play. Some are just board games played online (like Scrabble or chess), while others feel more like video games with monsters and quests. However, the most uniquely social games don’t look anything like a real-world games; instead, you are part of an online world where you might be a farmer, or an aquarium owner, or a mafia don. You earn points for doing all the things that a farmer or don would normally do, and by working with other friends playing the game, you can earn more points and get to higher levels of play.

The big difference between social games and most other games is that the game never ends. You might win individual rounds, but there is no ‘finishing’ the game. Just like real life social interactions, you keep going until you choose not to play.

Why Are They So Popular?

First, these are games. They’re easy to learn, easy to play and – because they’re usually on a mobile device – easy to take anywhere. Just like any other video game, board game, or physical game, players enjoy figuring out how the game works and getting good at it. Then, there’s the social aspect. Even when you can’t physically be near your friends, you can still play games against them. Your best friend might just be at work or at home across town, or might have moved to the other side of the country or the world, but you can stay connected by playing a game ‘together’ whenever you want. Finally, not only do you get to play games wherever you are and with friends near and far, but you can use those networks of friends to help you play the game by sharing experience, game money, or by lending another sword to the fight. Have more friends, conquer bigger monsters or farm bigger farms, earn more prizes, then get more friends as you explore new places in the game. See the fun, yet?

Three Examples

Farmville is one of the oldest and most popular games on Facebook. Each player creates a farm, where they can virtually plow, plant and harvest crops and trees. Players also care for their farm animals: milking their cows and collecting eggs from their chickens. As you tend to your farm, the game posts updates to your Facebook timeline and your friends can see and share in everything you do, especially friends who also play Farmville. Zynga – creators of Farmville – have nearly a dozen Facebook games, all of which are social games.

Words with Friends is a word-building game based on Scrabble – play letters to create words and earn points for each letter you play. You create an account, and then you find other friends who are also using Words with Friends and challenge them to a game. Since it’s a smart device app (for iPhone, iPad and Android), you can play it anywhere!

Draw Something is also an app-based game, where you draw clues to help the other player guess the word you’ve been given. Draw Something also lets you send messages to friends within the game, save the drawings you make and send them to Facebook and Twitter. Available for iPhone, iPad and Android.

Help & Resources

Facebook – Privacy Settings

Facebook Timeline

Note: We’ve moved the short look at Timeline that was here to a later post, with more details and suggestions. Check it out!

Facebook Settings

That said, with Timeline and other new features Facebook has developed, it’s more important than ever to understand the security and privacy settings on your account. So let’s walk through some of these settings and explain what they mean. We can’t cover every single setting, but we can look at the most important ones.

Facebook Settings menuUp in the upper right hand corner of every Facebook screen, you’ll see your name, the word “Home” and a triangle pointing downward. That triangle means that there are more menu choices. Click the triangle and you’ll see options for Account Settings, Privacy Settings, and the links to Log Out and get Help. [My account has a few extras, for Pages that I manage for other groups.] We’re going to skip Account Settings for the moment and look at Privacy.

 
Facebook Privacy SettingsPrivacy Settings. When you click on Privacy Settings, you’ll see a page that starts by reminding you that you can set the privacy level for every single post you make on Facebook. This is good to remember – you get to choose whether something you post is only visible to Friends, to a list you’ve created, or to the Public. Underneath that, you can set a default setting for all posts; I’d recommend by limiting everything to Friends to start with.

Underneath that are the more specific settings that you can control. Next to each one, click on Edit Settings to see what you can change. For most of these settings, you can choose to let different things (posts, tags, etc.) be visible to No One (but yourself) or Only Me, to your Friends, to all the Friends of your Friends, or let it be Public. I suggest you work your way slowly through the How You Connect and Timeline and Tagging settings, because they’re pretty easy to make decisions about.

Facebook Privacy SettingsNext are probably the most important settings to understand. The Apps, Games and Websites or Apps and Websites settings control what kind of information that sites and apps other than Facebook itself can see and use about you. These are called third-party apps and they include any app created by some company other than Facebook. Most of the games and ‘fun stuff’ in Facebook are actually these third-party apps, and you want to make sure that you only let them see the bare minimum of information needed to use them. A game doesn’t need to know your hometown and an app for the Washington Post doesn’t need to know what your address is.

Click on the Edit Settings link for Apps, (Games) and Websites and READ THE WHOLE PAGE that comes up before you click anything. Then, if you don’t use any games or other apps in Facebook, you should Turn off all apps. Once you click Turn off apps, many of the words on this page will turn grey and the settings will say, “This is disabled because you turned off all apps.” That’s good – this makes your information as secure as it can get. Nothing has access to it unless you permit it.

You might find that when you click on links that other people share, it asks you to let that app do something. THINK CAREFULLY before you click Yes. See the example of a Social Reader app that wants to know an awful lot about me before it will let me read an article someone posted. Do you really want to let this app work, and give it access some of your information? If you’re okay with that, go ahead and click yes. You can always change your mind later by visiting the Apps section of your Account Settings and blocking specific ones. Sample of Facebook App asking for permission it doesn't need

The last two Privacy Settings sections let you make your past posts more or less public (now that it’s easier to see them using Timeline), and to manage Blocked People and Apps. This is another good section to spend some time with, so you can stop getting those game invitations and friend requests from people you don’t care about. You can also add people to a Restricted List, so they can only ever see your public posts. You don’t need to unfriend them, but you can limit what they can see of yours.

[Note: This post has gotten very long – we’ll cover Account Settings in another post later this week. Take your time with the Privacy Settings for now.]

What’s the Big Deal?

So, why do all these apps want access to your information? Because they are businesses, and they are trying to make money by analyzing you and figuring out what you might want to buy from them. Yes, it’s all about advertising and selling information and stuff. We’ll talk more about this later on this month, but for now, just remember that any time you use a tool for free on the internet, it’s because You are the product being bought by advertisers and other companies.

Yes, there are a lot of settings you can change to manage your privacy in Facebook. It seems overwhelming, but it’s really a good thing. You get to keep as much control as possible over what information about you is shared on this social network, with and without your knowing it.

As always, the best way to learn about something is to play with it: take your time, read everything on the screen, and make sure you get help when you need it. For the rest of this month, we’ll look at other types of settings you should find and understand in all of your online accounts. If you have a Facebook account, start with learning these, and next week we’ll look at more places to keep yourself safer online.

Help & Resources

Getting Social – Sharing the neat stuff you find online

When the internet began, the only way to share interesting information online was to copy and paste it into an email, or forward one email message around and around.

Nowadays, the web is built for sharing neat stuff. From social networks like Facebook and Google+ (G+) to video and photo sharing sites, it’s easier than ever to share the interesting links that you’ve discovered.

Copy and Paste

The easiest way to share a link is still to just copy and paste. At the top of your browser, you’ll see the address bar. Inside of that field is the web address or URL, usually starting with “http://www.[something]”. Click into that address bar and highlight the entire URL. Then, either click on Copy (under the Edit menu at the top of your screen) or use Ctrl-C or Command-C to copy the item.

Next, just paste the URL wherever you want to share it from – into an email message, into a Facebook status update, into a comment you’re writing, into a blog post of your own. Click on Ctrl-V or Command-V, or Paste from the Edit menu and the full URL will appear. No need to type it all out yourself; let the computer do the work of remembering all the numbers and letters.

If you’re a bit more comfortable with a mouse and are on a web page, you can right click on the link you want to share and choose Copy Link Location. This avoids the possibility that you don’t highlight the entire URL in the address bar before you copy it.

Sharing in Facebook

Sharing a link in a Facebook status update can be as easy as pasting a URL into a status update, but do get a few more choices. First, when you paste that URL into a status update, Facebook knows you’re linking to a web page and will add a little preview of that page, including the title, a bit of text and an image. You can get rid of the image by clicking the box next to the words No Thumbnail, and you can click on the preview text to delete or change any of it. You can also share to the public or to just your friends by changing the Audience drop-down on the post.

Sharing something that a friend posted on Facebook is even easier. At the bottom of the post, click on Share. Facebook will ask where you want to share this item – your Wall, a friend’s Wall, or in a private message to someone. Pick the destination you want and follow the steps until you’re done.

Finally, all it takes to share a photo or video via Facebook is to upload it. Click on Add Photo/Video at the top of the page, then either upload a single photo/video or Create a Photo Album to add many photos of the same event or thing. Walk through the steps and when you’re done, your photos or videos will be shared on your Wall or Timeline.

Sharing from Flickr or YouTube

There are two ways you can share a photo or video that you find online. Just above the image (in Flickr) or just below it (in YouTube), there’s a small Share button. Click that and either:

  • Copy the link that they offer you, just like you did in the address bar. Now you can paste that link into a status post, email message or as a link on a page.
  • Get the HTML/Embed code. This small bit of web page code will let you actually paste the video itself into a blog post, blog comment, or web page you create. If you’re not using one of those tools, don’t worry about the Embed code – just copy and paste the link itself. But if you are using a blog or working with your own website, try embedding the video instead. Copy the code they offer you and paste it into your blog post or comment. It should look like this:

Sharing Anywhere Else

Most websites and tools will let you share items in one of the ways described above. Before you just cut and paste the URL, look around on the page and see if you see a Share button to click. Try clicking and see what happens – the service will probably just walk you through the steps you need to share using either a link or by embedding an image or video.

A word of caution: If the service requires you to create a new account with them before you can share something, stop and pause for a minute. Ask yourself if you really want to create a new account just for this, or if just copying and pasting the URL is fine. You don’t need to create accounts just because a website tells you so. Remember that you get to choose what you do and don’t want to do online, including signing up for a new service. Pause, and decide what you want to do next.

Help and Resources

Next week, we’ll take a step backwards and look at how to find neat stuff online. Stay tuned….

The Only Constant is Change

We’ll be taking a short break from ebooks this week to talk about one of the skills necessary for living life online: being comfortable with change.

“Nothing but change endures.” Whether we know this quote from Heraclitus or Isaac Asimov, it still rings true…and nowhere more so than online. Everything we’ve seen about online life so far – the flexibility, the social nature, the connection to technology, the possibility for innovation – are things that encourage change, and occasionally require it. Even more than with cars or electronics, the internet makes rapid and continuous change not only possible, but relatively easy to do.

For those of us used to a world made of bricks and mortar, this kind of change can be surprising and uncomfortable. When you visit a store every day, you don’t expect to walk up one morning to a completely different storefront with doors in new places, a new way of ordering, changed packaging, and brand-new (and maybe younger and faster) employees. You walk in the door and realize you don’t know where anything is, don’t know where to find what you want or how to even begin looking for it, and you feel that the staff don’t understand why you’re confused. In these brick and mortar stores, you can usually see the changes as they happen: the scaffolding and construction, the “big change coming” signs, employees saying goodbye to their regulars before they leave.

And yet, that’s precisely what it can feel like to have an online service you use all the time change its website overnight. You wake up one morning and everything you finally have gotten comfortable with has changed….again. It can be frustrating, can make you feel like you don’t know how this stuff works after all, can cause you to throw up your hands and walk away from the machine.

Don’t.

Don’t walk away, and don’t give up.

Take a deep breath, remember that you do know what you’re doing, and go back to basics. In our very first post on Learning for Life Online, we talked about playing with new online tools. These same skills are what will help you now.

  • Read the screen and see if the site has a link to a list or a video about “What’s new!, or maybe a new help section to walk you through the changes.
  • Once you’ve found that list of what’s new, push the button and watch the video or click on the link to the new features list. Then, try out one new thing at a time and see how it works.
  • Take your time and don’t be afraid. Yes, things have changed, but rarely does a website or service change absolutely everything all at once. You’ll recognize what’s familiar from the previous version and can focus on how it works differently now.
  • And a new one: don’t panic. It took you time to learn the old features, and it’ll take some time to learn the new ones, but probably not as much time as you think it will. All those changes will probably make the site easier to use and help you do what you want to do, so give them a chance.

Also, don’t believe the myth that the “younger kids who’ve been doing this forever” are any more comfortable with change than you are. They aren’t, and every time a service they use and have customized to be just the way they want it to be changes, they complain and get frustrated just as much as the rest of us. And then, like the rest of us, they get used to the changes and keep on going.

So, why have we taken time to talk about being comfortable with change this week? Because several major websites/services have announced updates and new features in the past two weeks that will have an effect on millions of people.

Facebook changes a little, then a lot

In late September of 2011, Facebook users woke up to yet another series of changes: their Most Recent feed choice was replaced by a Top Stories feed that missed half of what they wanted to see, their lists of friends and acquaintances were different, the login and stuff on the left side of the screen had moved around again, and there were different choices and settings that needed to be updated. That morning, most Facebook posts seemed to be about how much they hated the new look and feel, but that anger died down by mid-day and now, two weeks later, it’s all but gone. (For some history, the same thing happened in 2009.)

What many Facebook users didn’t realize is that these changes were the first step towards a much, much larger change, coming later in October. You can watch the full announcement and demonstration of the new Facebook Timeline, but in short, it’s a visual way to display all of your posts, photos & videos, apps, and anything else you want to share on Facebook. You can customize the look and there are new features that let you “curate the story of your life.” Mashable.com has several articles summing up the little changes and the big ones to come.

Amazon Kindle ebooks finally available through your local library

Ever since public libraries began to offer downloadable ebooks through their online branches, users have been asking, “…but can I get some books for my Kindle?” For a very long time, the answer was No, but last week, that changed. Now, Amazon Kindle users can check out library ebooks if their local library uses the Overdrive ebook and digital audiobook service. Once you find a book in your library’s ebook collection (check out the Boston Public Library’s for example), you check it out using that system and then seamless move over to your Kindle account to download it. This is a huge change because now the millions of Kindle ebook users can now check out library books. Awesome.

Boston Public Library’s online catalog gets personalized

Earlier in 2011, the Boston Public Library got a new online catalog, and overall the response has been really positive. Just today, the company who manages that online catalog updated the page you see when you first log in, to make it easier to see the important information (what’s checked out & when it’s due) and recommendations and ratings made by the people you follow. Check out this short video about all the changes to the online catalog for more information.

Summing Up

One of the greatest strengths of life online is that it’s easy to update and improve on the services and tools that we use there. However, this means that those services and tools will change, and we must change with them….or find new tools. Change isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard or scary or frustrating. We can learn to roll with changes and maybe find that the new, improved thing is actually better. But you’ll never know if you don’t give it a chance.

Help & Resources

Facebook – The Basics

Learning for Life Online tool #2:
The Learning for Life Online Facebook page

Ah, Facebook. It seems like everyone is Facebookin’ these days, from the high schooler across the aisle to your mother (it’s the only way to keep track of everyone any more, right?). But what is it, really, and how is it useful to you?

What Is It?

Facebook is a social network – a place where people go to stay connected to friends, family, coworkers and aquaintances online. To create an account on Facebook, go to the main page and fill in the information under the words Sign Up. You will need an email address before you begin; you can quickly set up a free account with GMail or Yahoo!Mail if you don’t have an address yet.

How Is It Useful?

If your family and friends are already on Facebook, then it’s another place to tell them what you’re up to. You can easily share updates, videos, neat web sites, or photos. It’s a great way to invite people to events, and you can use the chat and message features to talk a little more directly to individuals.

People are using Facebook to reconnect with old school friends and past coworkers. They’re also “liking” their favorite places, musicians, famous people & TV shows to get the latest news.

Facebook (or any social network) is no substitute for getting to know people in person, but it can help to keep folks connected even when they’re far apart.

Try It Out

If you don’t want to create a Facebook account right now, you can still see what it looks like. Check out the Boston Public Library Facebook page or the Learning for Life Online page and click around to see what’s there.

If you do want to jump right in, go to Facebook and get going. In upcoming Learning for Life Online posts, we’ll walk through more of Facebook’s features, including the privacy settings and photo albums. In the meanwhile, talk to a friend or relative who’s been on Facebook if you get stuck anywhere. You probably know a few.

Help & Resources