Social networking exit strategy

This is the kind of thing I read so many times on Hacker News: someone manages a “page” on Facebook, only to have it disabled/deleted one day, out of the blue. The difference is that this time it was the page I was managing.

A few years back I took over the page for Inkscape, and updated it every now and then. Quite enjoyed it and even a relatively small following (3774 at the last count I had) people were very active. Then this week once when I logged in and wanted to send out an update – I just couldn’t find the page. Disappeared from the search, from the control panel, everywhere. I could only see the page that was created from its Wikipedia article, and there was the Inkscape “group” which is much smaller.

Inkscape
Draw up some good stuff with Inkscape

I was looking around for a long time for a support contact, and there was practically nothing. It’s a hell of a challenge for coming up with Google search keywords because there’s just too much noise for Facebook + support related terms (that’s a pretty bad sign). In the end I go to this form, that supposed to be used to report problems with a page. Too bad half of it I couldn’t fill out. What is my page’s web address? I don’t know, it was “on Facebook”. What happened to it? Have no idea, I haven’t had any notice about it. Attach a screenshot. I wish I could but did I mention that it disappeared? Anyway, after submission I’ve been told that I’ll receive an email and it is crucial to act on it, otherwise the procedure won’t go forward. That’s been 4 days ago, and no email since.

Contingencies

By now I have given up on getting it back, it’s just does not worth the effort. On the other hand, I do have another page, Ignite Taipei which we manage/organize together with a couple of friends. That would hurt much more if that would disappear, especially because there’s not much presence elsewhere on the net just yet.

Strange, but actually this whole issue bothers me much less than it would have about a year ago, even if I got locked into Facebook even more. Maybe I know now better that shit will always hit the fan, whatever you do, just have to be prepared for it.

Sometimes it's time to leave
Please exit in an orderly fashion

So, how about extending the idea of the World Backup Day to social identities? How can I prepare to lose the least in case my pages or even my profile gets blocked/hacked/deleted?

  • The personal information is the most valuable, who are my friends and how to reach them. Should write a script that can run somewhere in the background, backing that info up periodically. At least names and emails. Maybe even import them into GMail contacts right away…
  • Establish links with people outside of Facebook. I already use email instead of Facebook messages whenever I can, now I have to extend that really to everyone.
  • Build a proper site / blog for the pages I’m involved with and make people aware of it. Always have a point of contact outside of FB.
  • …. what else did I forget? (leave me a message in the comments if you have more idea)

Why Facebook?

Do I ever fret that Google might block me? That Tumblr would delete my stuff? That Twitter removes my account? Nope, didn’t even really occur to me, they are “not like that”. On the other hand, the power Facebook has over online identities makes people cringe. Why are they different? I feel it’s because they not at all transparent in their decisions and also quite arbitrary. Too many innocent were punished to go unnoticed, and every decision is final. Unless of course one is so big like Ars Technica who had contacts within the HQ.

I was reading an article lately how Facebook want to manage their growing pains algorithmically: more math instead of more people. To me that means that there will be just more arbitrariness and even less transparency…. I wish if instead they would have more support people and start to clean up the mess instead. But of course, if I’d know how to manage Facebook, I would have invented Facebook. :)

Published by Gergely Imreh

Physicist, hacker. Enjoys avant-guarde literature probably a bit too much. Open source advocate and contributor, both for software and hardware.

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