Your Reppler is at stake

13 10 2011

These days, hopefully we’re all at least a bit careful about what we put up on social networks. As a Civil Servant I tend to err on the side of caution, as the press like nothing better than to bash a public servant about something they posted inappropriately. Recently we had another Tweetgate scandal involving Chris Huhne, but such stories are nothing new. From Sarah Baskersville to Stuart MacLennan, the examples of what can happen when the media scent blood are out there for all to see.

I was also vaguely aware that potential employers might want to “vet” candidates online, but I’ve never given the matter much consideration. There is now a tool called Reppler that allows you to vet your own social media profile, and the results are an eye-opener. Here’s a snapshot of my attitude according to recent Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn posts.

My Reppler score

My Reppler score

It’s not too bad, apart from showcasing my obsessive cat tendencies, but I’m left wondering why I didn’t get 100% or why my attitude is only “partly positive”. Will employers see that as a natural thing or will they prefer candidates who are super-positive about everything? Will expressing an opinion on an issue of the day come back to bite me a few years down the line? Is it still safe to sign an e-petition?

I tend to use different social networks for different purposes and adapt my postings accordingly. Facebook is for fun – catching up with friends, arranging meets and posting  jokes. I’m still a bit careful about what I post on there, but it’s not exactly how I would like to present myself in the workplace either! I’ve already gone off it a bit with the latest revamp of the interface, but if its content is destined to be forever engraved on my resumé I might have to think about ditching it altogether. A recent survey showed that 91% of employers are now screening candidates on the web, so think twice before you post about your nights out next time – post something about how hard-working and enthusiastic you are instead.





Life, the twitterverse and everything

11 05 2011

Today marks 10 years since Douglas Adams died. His writing was always an inspiration to me. This article of his, How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet, is almost as relevant today as it was then. The following extract strikes me as especially apt:

1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;

2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;

3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.

Apply this list to movies, rock music, word processors and mobile phones to work out how old you are.

If you listen to the news (and god knows I try not to, but unfortunately it’s a part of my job) you will regularly come across reporters dumbfounded by the use of Twitter or Facebook or online dating as part of some sinister crime or contributing towards the breakdown of society in some way. The emphasis is often not on the story itself, but ends up concentrating on the “newfangled” methods used by the participants.

Are we really still at the stage where web technologies are considered novelty items? These news stories don’t emphasise the roles that cars or phones or photocopiers play, so why keep highlighting the web?

This effect continues when it comes to public service provision. When the question of whether it would be cheaper to move services entirely online is asked, this is often discounted as an option in case citizens are disadvantaged by not having an internet connection. The same consideration is not given to the possibility that they might not have a phone, or a car or even a bank account, any of which would leave them similarly disadvantaged.

The launch of the Alpha.gov project will mean a further move towards digital provision of services by the government and the case for replication of these services under older phoneline-based models grows weaker with each passing year. I hope we can all work together to make web-based tools and services the best option for citizens to use and, in doing so, remove the need for duplication of effort.






Census working overtime

31 03 2011

My census was completed last weekend, as instructed. I didn’t put in “Jedi” as my religion, didn’t tell porkies about the number of people in the house and filled every field out to the best of my knowledge. Apart from being an employee of the people who wrote it, there’s simply no point in trying to be sneaky these days. All of our details are out there, on the web, and anyone who tries hard enough could find out a lot more about me than my ethnicity and how many dependant children I have.

The good people at Google and Facebook already know a great deal about everyone who’s ever used their products, and they use this mostly to try and sell us other people’s products. My Facebook account has personalised adverts at the side asking if I’d like to buy a set of drumsticks signed by Larry Mullen Junior, Gmail wants to know if I’d be interested in cheap Glasgow restaurants and a Google search asks me if I’d like to improve my prospects with Linux training. So why is the government spending a small fortune in this age of austerity asking how many rooms we have?

The official census website provides a somewhat unsatisfactory answer: because we need to count people. James Harkins’ article in the New Statesman is a little more thoughtful on the reasoning, but appears unconvinced by the arguments for having one and points out that the more the government wants to know about us, the more resistant we become to telling them.

Perhaps in ten years’ time when the next census is due, the supermarkets, social media providers, banks and search engines will simply gang up together and sell all of our information. Then statisticians, researchers, government agencies and planners could analyse it as they please. It would still be cheaper than the logistical nightmare of conducting a census and the results would be far more useful. So why not just do that?

I think this is the best answer for why we need a census; to stop the above scenario from every occurring. We need to do everything in our power to stop this, as if we allow our public spending plans to be controlled by private companies then we will be failing to meet the needs of society. I’m glad I filled out my census, it was a bit of a pain (especially as it kept crashing Firefox, grrr) but as least I helped keep my status up as a citizen and not just another customer.