3 Things You Should Do Before You Get Facebook’s New Timeline

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There’s one thing I can say for sure about Facebook’s new Timeline: It’s better. I’m just not sure whom it’s better for.

It’s probably better for app makers and brand pages that benefit from the credibility they get from prominent mentions in your Timeline. And it’s probably also better for people who love to use Facebook to tell the story of their lives. But is it better for you? You’ll have to decide.

The idea behind Timeline is: “Tell your life story with a new kind of profile.” Knowing that Facebook’s goal if for you to share your story with the widest possible audience, you should take a few steps to make sure you are only sharing the chapters of your life you really want to.

1. Get your friends’ settings right and audit your friends.
Whenever there are big changes on Facebook, outrage follows. Then it fades and Facebook grows. You can expect a similar cycle as Timeline rolls out. The Timeline is designed to tell your story through the content you’ve posted on Facebook. Some will find that unsettling.

The fact that Facebook built a setting that automatically makes all of your past posts “Friends Only” along with the slow roll out of Timeline indicates that Facebook is anticipating some backlash. Facebook has made the basic friend settings easy and you can now easily change the settings on any old post.

If you’re a “Friends Only” user like me, I recommend that you take advantage of the “reset button” set all of your old posts to “Friends Only”. To do this, go to the arrow in your upper right corner > Privacy Settings> Under “Limit the Audience for Past Posts” click “Manage Past Post Visibility.” If you use this setting, you can’t undo it. You can edit each post’s settings individually but you can’t change them back all at once. You can always make any post only available to you by selecting the “Custom” setting.

2. Check how you are tagged
Anyone can now tag anyone on Facebook. And if a friend tags you in something it could end up in your profile. You can always remove a tag but unless you have your settings right, a joke picture could pop up right at the moment a potential employer happens to click on your Timeline.

Go to the arrow in your upper right corner > Privacy Settings> Under “How Tags Work” click “Edit Settings.”

Here are my recommendations for tagging:


I have Timeline Review and Tag Review on for maximum Timeline control.  Timeline Review lets me approved anything tagged with my name before it shows up on my profile. Tag Review lets me approve tags on my content. I also have Maximum Timeline Visibility set to “Custom” “Only Me” for an extra layer of protection.  I don’t let Facebook recognize me in photos nor do I let friends check me into Places.

This is about as locked down as you can get. But I’ve found erring on the side of privacy has never been a problem for me on Facebook.

3. Edit your apps.
An app can write directly to your “wall”/timeline if you’ve given it permission to do so. Fact is you probably don’t remember if you’ve done so. And now apps play a more prominent role in your profile. So you should go through your approved apps and delete any that you are a) not using and b) would never like to see show up in your profile.

Go to the arrow in your upper right corner > Privacy Settings> Under “Apps & Websites” click “Edit Settings”> Under “Apps You Use” click “Edit Settings”> Click the light blue “x” next to any app you want to get rid of. Now, whenever you use an app, actually read the permissions the apps want. And it the app can write to your profile, your activity will become visible in your timeline

Extra Tip: Turn of Instant Personalization
Go to the arrow in your upper right corner > Privacy Settings> Under “Apps & Websites” click “Edit Settings”> Under “Instant Personalization” click “Edit Settings”> Uncheck the box that says “Enable instant personalization on partner websites.”

Why?
Facebook has been automatically sharing your public Facebook data with third- party partners through apps for over a year now. Now that apps will be posting to your timeline, you may end up having your activity on sites you didn’t mean to make public show up on your timeline. This is being very cautious. But it could help avoid some unintended consequences.

In Conclusion

The fact is we can’t be fully aware of the implications of Timeline until its widely implemented. When will that be?

On Quora, a, a Facebook employee speculated that it would be before the end of October. (If you’re dying to get the profile, here’s one way people have been able to get it.) The one thing you have to understand up the Facebook Timeline is that it can make your life feel way more public. More than LinkedIn, Twitter or most any other site, Facebook has the content to tell the story of our lives over the past few years.

Going forward, Facebook—I believe—hopes that you will embrace Facebook as the channel for your lifecast and mindcast in a public way. And if you do, Facebook will hit the billion-user mark before the end of 2011.

Cheers,

Jason

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