Use of Self-Contained Platforms

In current web development, there is a balance between a functional integrated approach and a visually appealing approach to designing a web page. Web designers often use “self-contained platforms”, such as Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight, to distinguish their website stylistically speaking. These platforms have an interface to create applications with video, audio, animation, and charting – all of which make it easier to have a standout web page. However, there are two main drawbacks with over-dependence on self-contained applications.

First, a visitor to the page must host a reader application on their computer – something that creates another set of problems. If the reader is not on the visitor’s computer, they will be interrupted to download and install it – an annoyance. In addition, as there are advancements in the platform, the visitor has to download and install updates to the reader application; surely you have gotten that pop-up message from Adobe saying it is time to upgrade to the new version of Adobe Flash.

Second, there is almost no external integration with a self-contained application. It is possible to integrate them with a database ( Action Script with Flash and XAML with Silverlight), but otherwise the application cannot work with its external environment. An example is developing a page for search engine optimization (“SEO”) with Google (or any other search engine).

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Professional and Personal Content

As you strategize the development of an online identity, you must choreograph how your content is disseminated across social media and profile web services. For any clear professional web services, such as LinkedIn or MonsterJobs, any content you publish must follow proper professional etiquette, serve a purpose, and be carefully scrutinized; the web content should follow the same guidelines as a paper resume – everything is spelled correctly, grammatically correct,  succinct, etc..  For all other web services, the guidelines you use to publish content become trickier. Personal content once completely irrelevant in a professional context is becoming relevant. Consider when you apply for an employment opportunity, there is a very good chance your Facebook profile and posts will be reviewed even though this content most likely falls under the umbrella of “personal content”.

Before publishing any personal content on a web service, you should understand what boundaries the web service offers to keep your content personal and accessible to your intended audience. Anyone who uses Facebook can quickly realize how content can be shared without any regard of who is viewing the content. This is because when you sign up for a Facebook account, the default settings for a Facebook account are very open and public. Often times, you make a post on your wall and it is shown on the wall of every person you have friended. Google + recognized this potential “issue” and developed the concept of “circles”, which creates clear boundaries of what content you are sharing and who you are sharing it with. This interface has its clear advantages.

When you publish professional content, you should follow proper etiquette and make sure the content is polished. When you publish personal content, you must consider the “boundaries” of the web service that determine who has access to your content – keeping it “personal”.  If you are comfortable with who has access to the content, then your content can be more “free form” in its structure and open with what it projects. Otherwise, if there are no “boundaries” in place, you should consider publishing your content in a professional form because it may be accessed in a professional context.

Network Vs Identity

On some social media platforms, it appears that the development of a “network” preceded  that of an “identity.” The biggest, most popular web services, Facebook and LinkedIn, concentrated their efforts on building networks, vast connections of professional and personal relationships that transformed how we interact with each other.  However, only in the past year have Facebook and LinkedIn really begun concentrating their efforts on building the “identity” features of their services. For example, Facebook added educational and employment experiences to their profile and a time-line this year. Likewise, LinkedIn significantly increased the depth of their profile by adding skills, sections, and much more. As network theory suggests, building the network first was an effective strategy to increase the value of their platform and services; the importance of individual profiles was secondary.

But does that put the cart before the horse? I suppose it depends on what you are aiming for, what type of network you want. You can look at a network traditionally – connections produced by a particular web service. Facebook has its network, and LinkedIn has its network and each finds ways to leverage the information they collect about you, your preferences and connections to generate revenue. But what if the notion of “your” network was much wider in scope – covering the entire internet; then web service networks are simply sub-networks. Moreover, on “your” network , you own your content. If this is the type of network you want, then your objective with an identity is to manage your information across the internet, including a multi-faceted strategy for all social media and online profiles.

Managing multiple identities across different web services causes the following problems: redundancy, confusion about who owns what and whether or not what you do is private or public, difficulties in managing relationships with others, and (over) inclusiveness. First and foremost, redundancy: there is unnecessary duplication of effort and content. For example, Google +, Facebook, and LinkedIn all prompt you to add your educational and employment experiences. This clear inefficiency is not only time-consuming, but could also lead to mistakes. Second, ownership:  it is difficult to maintain ownership of your content.  The terms of service often require you assign ownership or license your content without restriction. Every web service has their own “privacy policy” and “service agreement” with you. Most of the social media services ask for you to give up some of your privacy in return for providing you a free service. Third, managing relationships: each social media or profile web service has their own way of presenting profiles and interactions, so they require your specific attention. Facebook has a personal approach – so you may be more willing to intimate content like images, stories, etc.. Alternatively, LinkedIn has a professional approach – so you are probably only going to share information or make connections that advance your career or reputation. Finally, inclusiveness: a single web service profile cannot capture all of the information about you.

With the rise of social media, it has become increasingly important to develop your own online indentity– something that interacts with social media and profile services. You should have full control over your content and choose how it gets disseminated to various web services.  A well developed personal, professional website could be the answer.