It was a holiday weekend here in the USA, so many people were sharing photos and videos of their parties, fireworks, kids, and more on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. I was no exception, throwing up some firework slo-mo videos and a few shots from my Phantom 3.

I was posting and liking content on both my phone and laptop, on mobile and wi-fi, in two states and 3 cities. It was all fine until I went to add a new friend. Somewhere in a Facebook data center, an alert was probably set off and I was temporarily banned from Facebook. This is first time this has happened since I created my account in 2005 – you know, back when you had to have a college email address to join.

Yes, blocked from using Facebook. They said I had “suspicious activity,” and I could not log in. People who tried to visit my profile got a 404.

Facebook’s solution to get my account unlocked: i was told to upload a picture of myself to prove my identity. Here’s the prompt:

Facebook screen asking for a photo of myself

I found a selfie I took this weekend and uploaded it. And waited. There was no feedback from Facebook on why I had been locked out, possible causes, or the timeline for having the photo I uploaded reviewed and my account unlocked.

When I would try to login to my account, I received this message:

Facebook's photo saying user cannot log in

I waited. I took a walk and enjoyed the beautiful weather. I checked Instagram. I waited some more. Folks on Twitter weighed in:

A few hours later, I attempted to login again and was allowed in with no issues. I never received any feedback or email messages from Facebook telling me my account was reinstated or saying why I had been locked out.

I’m not mad at Facebook. Their systems saw something out of the ordinary, such as multiple logins from multiple devices in several locations, and followed security protocols as developed. My concern is with the lack of communication and method they offered to unlock my account.

I don’t know why I was not emailed at any point during the process. Facebook is quick to email me when a friend tags me in a comment or post, or when a friend goes live on video, so it’s strange they would be silent during a major account issue.

Google image Search results ImageSecond, I think the method of uploading a photo doesn’t seem terribly secure and easy to spoof.

There are photos of me all over the internet, and as you can see, when you google me, there’s plenty of photos. Facebook collects my email and mobile number, I’m not sure why they didn’t make me verify by code sent via email or text, like many other services do.

Did a person check the image, or was some super-secret Skynet AI responsible for seeing it was me in the photo and unlocking my account? Was the image actually deleted from Facebook’s servers once the check was complete as they said it would be?

Regardless, once I was back in I made sure to check what apps had access to my account (not many) and what privileges they had to access my data (not much). I don’t think one of them triggered the block, but it’s better to be safe with third party websites you give access to your Facebook account. If you do those quizzes and content generators that post on your behalf, you have given those random apps full access to your info, your friends, and more. That gives me a bad feeling, but that’s a post for another day.

If there’s a lesson here to be learned, it’s keep a photo of yourself handy in case you need to upload it to Facebook.

 

Facebook StoriesIt seems like all the major social platforms are working day and night to copy each other’s features. Lately, it seems they all have their sights set on the newly-public Snapchat, who launched their stories feature ages ago. Instagram soon followed,  and this week the mighty Facebook is launching a story feature.

Stories are not a new concept – users can now post images, videos, and more to a “story” as opposed to their news feed. These are intended to be ephemeral, lasting a few hours or a day, and then the disappear. Users can send these to all their friends, or like Snapchat and Instagram, direct them a specific user.

Facebook will allow drawing, stickers, and more to be added to photos. Facebook’s spin on the story will include a feature they are calling “masks,” which is a lift of Snapchat’s filters feature. Snapchat’s filters are fun but they have some pretty serious science behind them. Here are a few examples of masks Facebook will ship:

Facebook Masks

As you can see, they will be heavily advertiser focused. In the example above, you can see an Aliens move tie-in, Minions, and Guardians of the Galaxy. These IPs all have new movies coming out this summer. After all, Facebook is an advertising company, first and foremost.

Here’s what I thought when I saw this news this morning. If every platform and tool has an ephemeral stories feature, then none of them do. My time is limited, and now I have to think about what platform I should or need to post my stories on. None of them? All of them? Where do I reach the most amount of people?

For example, for some reason, I have a huge following on Snapchat. Literally tens of thousands. I post stories there and they do well with many views. Now, with Facebook launching stories, will that audience erode? Do I have to post the same content on Facebook where I reach less people, or do I focus my limited energies on the platforms where I already have brand value?

And that’s me as an individual. This is going to add a whole new layer of complexity for brands, institutions, and companies. They will need to decide where it makes sense for them to spend their time and resources to reach their key audiences as well. The Verge says this:

Where to post your daily story now becomes a daily concern for a certain subset of youngish, social media-savvy people. Facebook says stories belong everywhere that people are talking online, but what if the format is a fad? And what if forcing it on users across its entire family of app leads to a general fatigue with the idea? The company says each of its apps has a distinctive audience, and I believe it. But there’s also plenty of overlap. There’s a risk here that Facebook’s mania for stories will be interpreted as overkill by its users, and the feature will ultimately fade into the background. (This happened with live video!)

This stories war has the potential to also create confusion among users. If Facebook puts a large amount of attention and advertising around the Stories feature, will that slowly decrease the amount of news feed posts people and brands are doing? Will brands want to spend money to promote their posts to news feeds if the traffic isn’t there to see it?

Personally, I’m all for stories if it stops people posting freebooted videos and “inspirational” quotes on their news feeds.

Tons of hot takes on this wintry Tuesday.

I installed my first SSL certificate via the new Let’s Encrypt project. It was easier than other SSL certs I’ve requested and installed. This one was all done via the command line. Let’s Encrypt is a free, automated, and open certificate authority (CA), run for the public’s benefit. With a few tweaks in Apache, I’m getting A+ scores on Qualys’ SSL Labs test.

SSL Labs Test Result

In May of 2005, I sat in a movie theater in Erie, Pennsylvania, getting ready to watch Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. The movie was, well, the movie, and I couldn’t help but sit there and be bummed that I’d never have the chance to bring my boys to see a Star Wars movie. They’d never experience the excitement of watching a Star Wars story unspool before them on the silver screen. DVDs, Blu-Rays, and streaming aren’t the same. You have to see Star Wars in a theater. You just do. Just before Christmas, I sat in a theater with my two boys and watched The Force Awakens.

The Force AwakensIn that moment between the Lucasfilm logo and the logo appearing on the screen, that heart-stopping moment before the horns blast out, I grabbed their hands. That moment. I want to freeze it, time-lock it, live in it forever. I don’t want them to grow up. It’s happening too fast. The Lucasfilm logo appeared. The music started, and I looked at them. They were smiling, still holding my hand.

I’m not crazy about the new way Facebook is doing the sharing of content on brand pages. The new way where it shows multiple thumbnails for a shared post. I think it’s confusing and leads users to believe there are 3 different stories included in the post, not just one. Example:

Facebook sharing

Speaking of Facebook, their privacy controls have matured to the point that I don’t think people need to change their display names to some combination of a nickname or middle name as opposed to their last name. Instead of being “Laura Jane” on Facebook, you can be your full-name and lock yourself down so people who are not your friend see absolutely nothing about you. If you are worried about people finding you on social media, don’t be on social media.

Ever since I got back from HighEdWeb ’15 in October, I’ve been trying Slack with my integrated marketing team. I’m working on a larger post about it, but I’ve managed to convince my team to use it, which was probably the hardest part of the process. What I like are the integrations. We have Twitter, Wufoo, and Basecamp tied into Slack to give the team constant updates, just like the Weather Channel.


If you’re looking for a fun, low-cost entry into VR, I’d recommend checking out the View-Master Virtual Reality Starter Pack. It’s a 21st century version of the old plastic viewer that took those photo discs, but not you put your smartphone in it. The apps that come with it are kind-of lame, but it’s fully compatible with apps and sites built for Google Cardboard, including version of Google Earth. If you have an Android phone, there are some videos in the YouTube app optimized for Cardboard and it’s pretty neat to stand in the middle of an orchestra and looking around while they play. I can definitely see lots of uses for Higher Ed here and I’m starting to get what all the fuss around VR is about.