Things 16 and 17 of 23: Honestly, it’s not stalking, it’s social networking

My resolution last week not to be prejudiced against particular Things on the 23 Things Cambridge programme was rather severely dented this week with Facebook. I was already concerned about its treatment of privacy, and in a move of excessive caution signed myself up under an assumed name. It was only once I’d done this that I realised that rather negated the point of me being on Facebook (and also that there were already several hundred people on there with my real name). When I read the instructions for changing my name there, however, I decided it just wasn’t worth it. I also got frustrated by not being able to join the 23 Things Cambridge group, until I realised that I hadn’t followed the instructions on the 23 Things blog properly (telling me that I needed to set myself up as being on the Cambridge network).

In contrast to Facebook, which was designed by students for students, LinkedIn, the other Thing we were asked to look at this week, seemed much more professionally orientated. I also liked the sound of (which Chris Williams mentioned in comments recently), and which is described as ‘Facebook for academics’. I was just about to write a post saying roughly ‘Facebook bad, others better’, when it dawned on me…

It doesn’t matter fundamentally whether Facebook is or is not a better designed system than the others. For a social networking site, what really matters is who’s on there. I could find some names I recognised on all three systems, but I wanted a bit more of a test. So I took five people and decided to see which of the networks they were on. The five are:

Phil Bradley

Tony Hirst

Rufus Pollock

Levi Roach

Cosma Shalizi

Why these five? I promise I’m not stalking them. I wanted people who were reasonably web-savvy and so likely to be early adopters of networks. I chose men because, broadly speaking, they tend to have fewer worries about putting information on public web sites than women do. I chose people whose names weren’t so common that they’d be impossible to distinguish. And I also chose people with whom I already had some tenuous connection: I’ve met them, or heard them speak at conferences or read their work, or discussed things with them on blogs. They’re the kind of people who as an academic or an academic librarian I might want to get into contact with, or find out what they’re doing currently.

So what were the results?

Phil Bradley is on Linked In and, but there were too many people of the same name on Facebook to be able to identify whether one was him.

Tony Hirst is on Linked In and Facebook, but not

Rufus Pollock isn’t on any of the services.

Levi Roach is on, but not Linked In. Again, I couldn’t be sure which, if any, of the Levi Roaches on Facebook was him.

Cosma Shalizi is on Linked In and Facebook, but not

In this very brief test, Linked In just won out on the definite finds (3/5), but none of the sites really predominated, and none convinced me that I had to be on them. For personal use, I think is potentially most appealing, but for libraries, the choice may be more difficult. Facebook is still the obvious place to put an academic library page, because it has the greatest reach among students, but it’s not clear in which networks, if any, most researchers are going to be found. Given how much it involves maintaining a presence on one of these sites, I think libraries are going to have to think quite hard about which services to sign up to.  


10 thoughts on “Things 16 and 17 of 23: Honestly, it’s not stalking, it’s social networking

  1. Interesting. I’m actually on Facebook, but my profile is completely locked down so that you’re simply not going to find me by casually looking. Happy that I’m to be found on LinkedIn because that is a ‘public’ face that I’ve got there.


  2. I don’t know enough about LinkedIn, but wonder if it’s only for individuals and, as such, libraries wouldn’t be able to sign up for an online presence on this site? If so, this may be why Facebook is the obvious choice.


  3. I find Facebook useful for snippets and links – most of my academic friends have their own websites and so their links on FB are very useful for those of us who want to follow them up. It’s also of course a good way of keeping up with friends without any hassle!


  4. I’m on facebook, as you’ve rightly surmised, and the profile photo for the time being is the same as my one. I tend to use the two for different purposes (as I guess most people do). I don’t really use the networking options on to stay in touch with anyone, but having the site up means that people who want to get in touch after meeting me at a conference can just google my name and find the relevant details (this has happened surprisingly often) – basically it’s an alternative to a departmental webpage for me. On the other hand, facebook I keep for friends and acquaintances and I only have people who are academic contacts of mine as ‘facebook friends’ if they are also people who I meet up with outside the bounds of academic contexts.


  5. I’m still resisting Facebook as it just seems too hard to manage the privacy issues and the ownership of personal data (but maybe I am just a bit paranoid). I do use LinkedIn, but more as an easy way to maintain an up-to-date professional webpage than for the networking/sharing aspects.

    To Kirsty above – you can set up a LinkedIn profile for an organisation/company that is separate from any individual profile. If you go to the search bar and search under Companies (rather than People), you can look some up.


  6. Thanks for the comments – it’s interesting to get all these perspectives from users of the different services. Overall, I do get the impression that LinkedIn is very much about business to business marketing, and only really useful to researchers and librarians if they’re freelancing (like Phil or Bavardess), or they’re working in the business sector. (I did find the Judge Business School profile there).

    I’ve recently read an article that reckons there aren’t going to be any more new social networks, now we have Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter but I wonder if might be an exception. As Levi points out, it’s very useful if you’re further down the academic food chain and haven’t got a departmental webpage of your own (unlike gillyk’s friends), but still want people to be able to contact you about your research. It saves all the hassle of setting up your own site and looks more ‘academic’. I’ve only just been able to get a page about me on an academic site five years after getting my PhD, and I don’t know how long that will last for, since the job is temporary. Given how many graduate students and temporary staff there are now in academic life, I can see having found a useful niche for junior scholars.

    BTW Phil, have you got a some kind of blog alerting service set up somewhere, so you know who’s writing about you? You certainly showed up very quickly, and though I know Cosma and Levi sometimes read my blog, I presume you don’t normally. I’d be interested to hear how you keep track of blogs by subject, because whatever you’re doing it appears Rufus Pollock and Tony Hirst aren’t doing it!


  7. I’m on Facebook as me, and it serves a particular purpose (or several). Lots of my SLAC colleagues are there, and several SLAC organizations advertise through Fb, so it’s a good way to keep up with campus events. I also have allowed students to befriend me, in part because I think it’s a nice way to let them find me on the web without finding the me who is posting here on the web. (I also have a blog that is more clearly linked to my RL name, so students and colleagues and family who know I blog can find me there, and so I can comment on my sister’s and niece’s blogs without linking to ADM). The St Andrews crowd are mostly on Fb, and GH, EJ, and all of the In the Middle crowd, plus a ton of the UCSB Anglo-Normanists and a bunch of SMFS folks.

    It also allows me to catch up with friends from school, etc.

    So Fb allows my students and my family to see a controlled version of me. There are academic discussions, political discussions, pop culture stuff, and occasional LULs when a student compares two textbooks, one favorably, the other less so, and I point out that both scholars are on my f-list. On the other hand, it can be a time suck, and I know a couple of people who occasionally turn theirs off.

    I like, although I find the interface less user-friendly. But it also is clearly geared at more professional networking. I am using it a bit more as time goes on, in part because I’m finding that, if I ask a specific question about something, one of our colleagues will pop up with references pretty quickly. It’s also far better than trawling blogs or facebook for seeing what people are working on.

    But. I can’t ever see myself blogging there in the way I do at my blog, or about the things I blog about. The entire set-up, with places for CVs and papers, etc., is something that makes me want to only talk scholarship there. I don’t think I’d even use it to talk about pedagogy much.

    I don’t like LinkedIn. Even the sign-up process seemed not low-key-enough for me. Where, Facebook, and the blogs I read seem to be networking in the “this is the academic community you already belong to, and these are the conversations you would have in person if you could,” sense, LinkedIn seems too oriented towards talking to strangers and letting strangers know things about me. My Fb has lots of personal stuff, but is locked down so that most people can only find me through friends. My account only has things that are public information. My blog has lots about me, but isn’t under my name. I’m not sure that I want people who have no reason to get to know me to even know I exist, and that’s LinkedIn’s niche in my world 🙂

    BTW — for some reason, this refuses to accept my hotmail addy.


  8. Uniting the uniters: electronic resource corpora and competitionI am now back from Kalamazoo in safety, but very very short of sleep, so if this makes no sense I apologise and may redact later. I will write about Kalamazoo eventually, but the short version would be that it was great. I wanted to clear some more bac…


  9. Uniting the uniters: electronic resource corpora and competitionI am now back from Kalamazoo in safety, but very very short of sleep, so if this makes no sense I apologise and may redact later. I will write about Kalamazoo eventually, but the short version would be that it was great. I wanted to clear some more bac…


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