General Work: facebook hiring opinion social networks
by Jesse Rodgers
A recent flurry of articles have been published about employers asking for Facebook account access demonstrates the lack of understanding of social networks. Facebook is a personal social network that people use it as a primary communication tool for family and friends. It is also a trusted channel of sharing information — like email. The privacy settings in Facebook and all the issues around the Terms of Services speak to how people view it as a deeply private space. On top that, Facebook isn’t too happy about other people gaining access to your account.
When you ask for access to someone’s profile on Facebook I see the following issues:
- It contains information that is way outside of the scope of employment such as sexual orientation, religion, who they have a relationship with, who they are friends with, communications between friends and family, and more.
- People that have allowed friend access to that person have a trust relationship with that person — when a potential employer accesses that profile they assume the identity of that person in that relationship. (Update: I think this why Facebook is unhappy about this practice)
- The person that just gave you access to their Facebook profile isn’t concerned about the confidential information of others they just made available to a stranger. Does that say more about them than a picture of them slumped over with a beer in their hand from 5 years ago?
- People can (and do) set up fake profiles and carefully create the persona they think you want to see.
In the article published by AP, it seems to be perceived ok to ask for access or a friend request especially in public service jobs. What I really like is this part of the article when talking about what they might find on Facebook:
When asked what sort of material would jeopardize job prospects, Thomas said “it depends on the situation” but could include “inappropriate pictures or relationships with people who are underage, illegal behavior.”
Woah, wait a minute. What is inappropriate is completely subjective. Could it be simply a picture of a guy hugging another guy is inappropriate for that job? The answer that person would have might be no but once they gain access to someone’s profile how can they say it didn’t influence them? What other information do you get with that access? You gain access to all the information that opens you up to being accused of discriminatory practices. What would be considered discriminatory practices? From the US Equal Opportunity Commission:
- harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, genetic information, or age;
- retaliation against an individual for filing a charge of discrimination, participating in an investigation, or opposing discriminatory practices;
- employment decisions based on stereotypes or assumptions about the abilities, traits, or performance of individuals of a certain sex, race, age, religion, or ethnic group, or individuals with disabilities, or based on myths or assumptions about an individual’s genetic information; and
- denying employment opportunities to a person because of marriage to, or association with, an individual of a particular race, religion, national origin, or an individual with a disability. Title VII also prohibits discrimination because of participation in schools or places of worship associated with a particular racial, ethnic, or religious group.
Similar laws exist in Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and throughout the European Union.
Just because the information exists now in social networks like Facebook should not mean that employers should gain access to that as a way of ensuring they make a good hiring decision. Furthermore, if you rely upon the social network information you could be fooled into thinking someone is a certain way because what they gave you access to was a carefully crafted fake profile to make them look awesome. I am not saying you shouldn’t use social networks in hiring – if you don’t currently use LinkedIn you are missing out on a very powerful tool for due diligence, in a professional way, on someone.
I just think employers should stay out of people’s Facebook profiles and mainly because they find out way too much information on someone and it may put the employer at risk.
The following is my public service post of the season…
The Kitchener Conestoga Rotary Club believes every family should have a special Christmas Dinner, including a turkey. Five years ago, the Club decided to help make that a reality and has since raised $732,000 in support House of Friendship’s Christmas Hamper Program, which shares the gift of food with local families in need at Christmas time.
What are the facts?
This Christmas, House of Friendship anticipates the need for turkeys and Christmas Hampers will increase – that means 3,500 turkeys and 4,000 food hampers to feed over 10,000 people!
What will that cost?
The Kitchener Conestoga Rotary Club’s 2011 Turkey Drive goal is $275,000 to purchase turkeys and food products. We know this is a big goal, but we believe if we all pitch in a little, we will reach this goal, and more importantly reach thousands of local families. For as little as $20 you can sponsor a turkey. Or you may choose to sponsor a food hamper with a turkey for $80. All donations over $20 will receive an official income tax receipt. How many turkeys and hampers will you sponsor?
How can YOU help?
You can sponsor turkeys and food hampers rather than Christmas or corporate gifts; honour your clients with a donation to the Turkey Drive. Sponsor turkeys and food hampers and encourage your family and friends to do the same. Better yet, ask them to volunteer with you to pack or deliver hampers and turkeys.
How can I talk turkey?
Donate securely online at www.turkeydrive.ca or drop me an email to jrodgers at uwaterloo.ca.
blogging life University of Waterloo Waterloo: change Daily Bulletin web presence
by Jesse Rodgers
On Tuesday November 8th, 2011, Chris Redmond let everyone know (at the bottom) he is no longer the editor of the University of Waterloo’s daily news publication — the Daily Bulletin. He covers some the history of the Bulletin:
I have been editing the Daily Bulletin through more than 4,500 issues now since it was created in the spring of 1993. Originally the Daily Bulletin was distributed by “gopher”. In the spring of 1995 the first Web versions of the Daily Bulletin were tried out. In 1998, the “Link of the Day” was introduced; in 1999, the use of photos became a regular occurrence. The “When and Where” events listings began in 2003, and the present graphic design dates mostly from 2006.
What he leaves out is the role that he, along with Roger Watt and Carol Vogt, played with getting “UWinfo” online and to the staff, students, and faculty at the University of Waterloo.
When I started at the University of Waterloo in 2001, hired as the campus’ first Web Developer, I was interviewed in Chris’s office atop Needles Hall. That was the first time I actually met him. I heard about this UWinfo group that was two techies and a writer that learned HTML. That writer provided the content that grew into a very rich University of Waterloo web space.
Every business day Chris published an editorial on what is happening on campus. It was easily one of the first blogs in the world, never mind campus. The difference was that before there were commenting systems the uw.general newsgroup is where the ‘discussions’ happened about stories in the Bulletin. This engaged people in the publication at an early time. This is long before they were called blogs and sure comments never found their way into the Bulletin but I don’t think that is a negative thing.
Chris’s work on the Bulletin and what became the University of Waterloo ‘home page’ (something he “edited” daily until sometime after 2007) gave the University of Waterloo a template of content rich web pages. I believe everyone emulated his content focus in the early days and still influences how the web presence will evolve in the future. He saw the value of the web early and worked to use it for good to the best of his ability.
With Carol Vogt retiring a few years back (and sadly passed away shortly thereafter), Roger Watt retiring, the last of Waterloo’s web content pioneers has left his publication that defines the university web space for so many. It’s a big deal in my mind. Yes there are a few other folks that shaped those early days still around but to me the “UWinfo” group was the web… and if I missed anyone that deserves credit for that, sorry. I can update the post.
Good luck in retirement Chris (which isn’t for a few months at least), I look forward to all the content you have yet to create!
Edit: Hat tip to @garywill — almost forgot about Simon the troll
General University of Waterloo VeloCity Waterloo: accelerators education incubators new thinking or old thinking
by Jesse Rodgers
In Canada the rise of the incubator choices is quite noticeable. The success of the Y-Combinator (YC) model is hard to ignore, it seems to be the accepted way to grow young tech companies at the moment. However, it isn’t clear if the model works anywhere but YC and TechStars, these programs cost a lot of money to run so does the math hold up for everyone?
How many companies make it a big enough exit (assuming you need a $30 million exit per incubator) and in what time frame? In Canada there is a trend that shows some crazy growth in exits but how many are in that ‘big enough’ range or more that haven’t been around for 5-10 years or more? I think one maybe two. It isn’t just Canada though, how many exists are there in a year for any tech startup anywhere? Likely not enough to sustain the current number of incubators globally.
The talent pool is half empty
The limits on size, depth, and overall health of the talent pool is a problem for incubators if you assume that they simply tap the current talent base and help them be successful faster. If the number of exits isn’t currently there then you have to look at ratio of incubators to exits and figure out how many companies it takes to fill the gap (what is the current market and what do you have to create? Yup, it is basically a product you are creating). At a guess, the current level of incubators needs to create a lot of brand new entrepreneurs from those that would normally go work for someone.
There is talent out there but they aren’t being developed in any sort of formal educational process. A VC backed/run incubator might not be the best place for young guys and gals to receive this education for the first time. Not saying it couldn’t work, I think Y-Combinator was initially successful not because of the money or location but because an educator runs the program. In 2008, Mashable was claiming that “Y Combinator is the premier university of Internet startups.” I agree. What motivates YC though? Paul Graham’s comment on my post in StartupNorth offers a bit of insight as well (also with a bit more on why in his Why YC post).
When we started YC, the returns seemed completely unpredictable. (They still do actually.) What allowed us to do it was that we didn’t care if we made money.
An incubator that is about educated the ‘student’ is a lot like higher education and should not be about profit. That might be a values based statement but it is something I believe. If you are measured by the success of the student and not by the profit margin, the student has a better chance at success.
Herein lies the opportunity for Higher Education. Not unlike engineers or scientists, there is a demand for entrepreneurs (or if you are Richard Branson you want intrapreneurs). It isn’t good enough that students have the technical chops, they need to be creative and look at solutions to problems in a way that is willing to take more risks. This is soft skill development we are talking about — you can’t engineer an entrepreneurial process. Being entrepreneurial pretty much requires you laugh at the limitations or restrictions and find a way to succeed. You can engineer an education process that offers some perspective on that but that requires some entrepreneurial thinking to design and implement.
Higher Education needs to look outside of courses and modules, entrepreneurs shouldn’t be measured
Traditionally to address a skills gap in a student a course would be created and the student would receive a credit. This just increases the cost of education for students and if you have been paying attention, there is a bit of higher education bubble according to Peter Thiel. What I have seen from students is that they absolutely are against another course that is outside their specific discipline for various reasons. Enter the incubator model in higher education (or in VeloCity’s case the dormcubator).
Create an environment where innovation, networking, competition, and experience is shared as well as celebrated. Create it outside of the traditional academic course model. Support it institutionally so the quality and knowledge is passed on (doesn’t disappear when students graduate). Then try to connect it back into the classroom. Leverage institutional Alumni networks for mentors and other forms of support. Don’t be afraid to fail a few times.
There is no set way to execute on this model but you need to try, iterate, and keep going. My belief that in order for higher education to remain relevant it needs to experiment with these different ways of learning. Students will not only appreciate it, I bet they will have a better experience and years later the institution will benefit by having them re-engaged.
Footnote: the incubator model
For those unfamiliar with an incubator or accelerator model, the easiest way to explain it: an incubator is where a group or individual provides resources (money, mentorship, space to work, expert services, a network of people) to an early stage company in exchange for equity or another arrangement. Generally it is always equity but in Canada we have publicly backed models (the Accelerator Centre for example) that charge rent for services or in the case of VeloCity you pay what you pay anyway to live in residence and it is a service offered to students.
The entire explanation of the VeloCity model is another post.
More on incubator in Higher Ed: To Be or Not To Be: University Incubators
life TribeHR University of Waterloo VeloCity Waterloo Work: campus planning programs strategy student success
by Jesse Rodgers
It is now official, I can drop the “interim” part of my job and take on a new and exciting title of Director of Student Innovation at the University of Waterloo. I am really excited about all the positive change that is happening at the University of Waterloo and especially the Student Success Office lead by Sean Van Koughnett. Sean started VeloCity with just a crazy idea and a mandate to do something good for students. In only a year it had it first residents and less than three years later a 23-year-old donated $1 Million back to the program. That is success.
Now under the Student Success office with the mandate of “Student Innovation” I feel like the bar just got raised some more. There is a lot to do in regards to first identifying current innovation (which includes VeloCity) and doing the right (or best guess) things to help interesting things happen more often. We will start this fall, it will be a lot of fun.
I am really excited by the team Sean has put together and double excited to work again with Virginia Young who was once an Associate Director with me at VeloCity. She is taking over the Communications and Research role under Student Success. Pam Charbonneau is going to lead Student Experience and Heather Westmorland is leading Learning Services. It won’t be a quiet summer. More in the Daily Bulletin.