This is some general musing about being online and how to define some boundaries between ones private and public persona - it is not 100% related to PickupPal but hear me out.
For any of you that belong to a social networking site like Facebook, Myspace, Hi5, Linkedin …. this list goes on, and you are over 25 then there is a real sense of trying to understand what the rules of engagement are. I read a wonderful piece called “Teen Socialization Practices in Networked Publics” by dannah boyd. For anyone who is interested in learning about the Social Networking psychology dannah boyd is a person you just have to follow. The reference quoted above are the notes from a talk she gave regarding the reality of today’s teenagers and how online social activity is completely integrated with their offline social activity. One of the most interesting things about all this and something that I never really grasped was how teenagers now are socializing in a completely different manner to how I socialized as a teen. With parents increased fear of the world around them at an all time high - todays teenagers are kept in doors more and if they do get out they do it under the banner of shopping or organized activities. So for teenagers the need for online social networks is huge and the rules of engagement are pretty complex. Back when I was a teenager you had your circle of friends and you hung out together and learned how to be social. The beauty was you could make a mistake - you could ask someone out or share how you felt about someone and although the word go out - it was only that - just words. Fast forward to today - if teenagers are forced to socialize online and all of their interactions are stored then the record of failure stays online for a long time and so the embarrassment has a chance to linger. So being online and having your information out there has repercussions - how profound is that really? - I am not sure but it is something to think about. All I do know is that the closest glimpse my parents ever got of what my school life was like was if they ever read the comments in my yearbook - however that was a securely hidden artifact. Today parents can check up on their children’s socializing and analyze their friends and the friends of their friends. I am a parent and I want to protect my children and make sure they are not doing anything wrong however where is the line?
To tie this back to PickupPal - Privacy and setting boundaries regarding the storage of personal information is one of those things that we struggle with and have done so since the beginning. We have been often asked that we provide the ability to let members browse around and see all the available rides out there instead of PickupPal making the selection and then contacting the driver. Some fairly angry people who believe that we are just trying to control everything and that members should be allowed to do what they want. I can understand how feeling like you are being controlled is not a great feeling - however we are trying to balance the other side of this. We ask members to sign up - provide some basic information, post a picture and specify if they choose to ride with a man or a woman or if they have no preference at all. Then we ask that they tell us where they would like to travel to. Fairly benign information - however that is my perspective and I cannot speak on behalf of all members of PickupPal and to do so I think is not my place. So for now we have some rules of engagement - such as we do the matching based on what you said you are looking for and we act on your behalf to provide you with good potential matches. However we are not here to broadcast you, your profile or your ride requests to the entire world. If someone is “on your way” then yes we make an introduction but if they are not then we hold off. Perhaps this is being too conservative on our part - I am not sure - however it seems to be a fair balance between what we said we would do and how we go about doing it.
As an aside I thought I would post this funny Facebook related video - if you use Facebook you will understand it right away. In any case it is on the edge and probably not safe for viewing at work - not for nudity or anything like that - just perhaps the language used.
Cheers - Eric