Timeline Lords

Milestones are part of the new Facebook Timeline feature which is rolling out to everyone now.
There are a lot of people who are upset about this feature and for personal accounts I can understand why, it requires more careful attention to your privacy settings.  However, I also think that Milestones have the potential to be a really useful and fun feature for people and pages if it were surfaced more easily for viewers.

Careful With That Timeline

Facebook privacy controls aren’t the easiest to manage at the best of times, but Timeline basically requires you to pay attention to your privacy levels and the privacy level of all your posts and ‘likes’ in the past. This is because the timeline makes it incredibly easy for people to go back over your history and see what you said in the past or what link you clicked on. If this is worrying you then I suggest a few steps:

  1. Look up some good articles on Facebook privacy settings (Mashable has an excellent one) and spend an hour with it to make sure everything is set the way you want.
  2. Go back through your timeline (just click on your name at the top left in facebook) and make sure there is nothing there that you wouldn’t want others to see. To do this click the settings icon and choose “view as…” then you can enter the name of anyone on your friends list to see how they can see you.
  3. Now more than ever always follow the golden rule of the Internet.

“Once you’ve typed out your latest inspiring thought, before you hit enter, consider: If someone finds what you said tomorrow, next year or in twenty years when you are running for president, would you stand behind what you are about to send out into the ether? Are you sure? If not, then delete the text and go watch a cat video to get your mind off it.”

Relevant History

Milestones allow you to create specific historical events in your life and enter the date, location, explanatory text and pictures. This is just the sort of fun sharing feature Facebook wants to use to get more information about users so it’s probably not the greatest thing for the users. It has it’s place, I’m sure for a baby’s early life achievements it will be very exciting for the whole family. Just consider sharing these milestones only with a specific friends and family list so that they aren’t part of the greater ether of the Internet for no good reason.If you are thinking of having some historical fun with your timelines then you’ll find quickly, as I did, that one of the unfortunate design points of milestones is that they are limited to events within your lifetime. So it’s kind of like Quantum Leap, you can go back and add fun historical events you could have been a part of you can do that but you can’t talk about your previous lives or work in how you have really interacted with events in the distant past due to your future invention of time travel. Short-sighted design on Facebook’s part I think, but who am I to criticize? I definitely didn’t help Einstein work out the theory of relativity…otherwise it would be on Facebook timeline.However, pages do not have this restriction. A page can have it’s start date as any date after January 1, 1000 C.E. This could be fun depending on your page, but it could also be useful. On this pageI run, for example, I am adding in interesting historical moments relevant to Canadian democratic and reform. Currently these milestones will be interspersed with other posts and links to blogs or news. This can give a way for brands or any organization to provide an interesting and interactive picture of their history in the context of other news and updates all in one place. It might not be as clear and useful as a reference as a simple table of dates on your website, but it’s an engaging way to interact with your followers about your organization’s history. Each milestone has the ubiquitous Like and Comment buttons so your followers can engage with the history you provide right in place.

Feature request: If any at Facebook is listening, to make this Milestones for Pages features really useful it would be great to have a filter that showed only Milestones and no other news or links to allow people to explore the history without other clutter.

Moral of the Story

Whether you are managing a brand for an organization or you are just a regular person who likes staying in touch with your friends and making the occasional public comment, the new age of interconnected information you need to take control of the information being stored about you and consider how it is presented.  The Internet never forgets, but that doesn’t mean you can’t control have some control over how it is presents what it remembers.

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