I first started using Facebook back in November 2006, and then set up the ICT4D Group in April 2007 to provide an opportunity for information sharing and networking amongst all those with interests in how ICTs can be used to contribute to ‘development’. Over the years the Group has grown considerably, and during the last few months an increasing number of people have asked to join. Along with this, we have had a sudden increase in the number of irrelevant posts, which has made me think that I should formalise the protocol that I have traditionally used to add people to the Group. Another option would simply be to let anyone join, and hope that people in the Group report posts which offend them or are irrelevant. However, this would damage the integrity of the Group, and having set it up I think that it still makes sense to try and restrict membership. Interestingly, I have also received requests from people managing other Groups that have been hit by an increase in spam for suggestions about how best to reduce this through the management of Group membership.
So, the process I use to judge whether or not to hit the “Add” button requires me to do a quick review of the Facebook profiles of all those who have asked to be added, or who have been recommended for adding. What I look for, in approximate order of importance are the following:
- Whether they already have Friends in the Group (+ve)
- Whether they belong to other similar Groups (+ve)
- Whether they are employed by an organisation working in the field (+ve)
- Whether they studied at an institute or organisation relevant to the field (+ve)
- Timeline – to see the content that’s there (can be +ve or -ve)
- Noting if they have been suggested for nomination by an active member of the Group (+ve)
- Photos – to see if there is anything relating to the field (+ve), or anything that I feel might be construed as offensive to members of the Group (-ve). People who just post photos of themselves (or cats) are unlikely to be added!
- Evidence that they use Facebook for advertising themselves or the products of a company (strongly -ve)
- Whether they have a male identity (i.e. use “his”), but their profile photos are female (-ve). This is a tricky one, because they could be women who have deliberately, or perhaps by accident, chosen to show their gender as male.
In so doing, I have discovered enormous differences in cultural practices on Facebook, and have been particularly struck by how blatant the use of sexual innuendo and imagery can often be. I’m afraid that this is one of the main reasons why I choose not to add people to the Group.
I would be fascinated to know how other Group Administrators manage their choices about who to add or ignore. I’m sure I do not always get the decisions right, but hope that members of the ICT4D Group will also self-regulate. In the future, if we get many more requests, I guess I will have to try to automate this process somehow!