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DOP, Electric Sanders and Facebook

Posted: Saturday 14th April 2018 by Emyr MWT

In 2004 ospreys returned to breed in Wales for the first time in centuries.

At the same time as that historic first egg was laid in April 2004, a 19-year-old college kid in America came up with a novel idea for a social media platform for himself and his fellow students to communicate and share information on.

Fourteen years later that college kid is worth $80 billion, making him one of the richest of the world's 7.6 billion people that share this planet with him. He could give every single human that is living right now $10 and still end up being a multi-billionaire with the loose change.

Ospreys in Wales have also done well, we now have four pairs.

Monty and Blue 3J


DOP Engagement

We get many emails and messages from people asking us to write more blogs because they are not on Facebook. I completely get this and this is something I have started to do this year.

Currently DOP has a presence on several digital platforms consisting the website you are reading this on, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and, of course, Facebook. Here are the 10 main ways we engage with different audiences about the Dyfi ospreys - in order of how quickly we can get the information out:

DOP Engagement Platforms


The thing is, of all the digital platforms out there, for our very specific subject matter - ospreys - Facebook is by far the most convenient and effective of all of them.

Let me give you an example: When Monty arrived home last week, it took all of a few seconds to put this post up:

An astonishing 54,000 people saw that post about a single bird arriving back from migration, and almost 1,000 people commented on it. These are astronomical figures for a wildlife project, off the scale.

I remember 10 years ago while I was running the Glaslyn Osprey Project for the RSPB having to ring the Cardiff Office and speak to the Communications Officer when Ochre 11(98) or the unringed female returned. We would then start working together on a Press Release.

But what would happen if it was Saturday morning, a Bank Holiday, or Wendy was on annual leave that week? That Press Release could well have been a week out of date when it was released and by the time the local weekly newspapers got hold of it and printed it, a fortnight would have passed - we had eggs by then!

So a 14-day delay in sharing breaking news to thousands of people has been shortened to 14 seconds just a decade later. So that's progress, right?

An Inconvenient Truth

An astonishing 2.2 billion people use Facebook every month, one in three adults in the world. Facebook does not charge a subscription, it's free.

Or is it?

As we know this week, Mr Zuckerberg had some explaining to do in front of some very important looking people in Washington. For years we've kinda known that Facebook uses some of our data, but nobody really knew which pieces of data and precisely what for.

Our relationship with Facebook (or so we thought until this week) went something like this: I search Google for a new guitar, then low and behold, as if by magic, next time I'm on Facebook I see ads for guitars. Same for a new electric sander, a new kitchen, and so on. Facebook is 'free' and salary their 27,000 employees and other costs by generating advertising revenue.

So the price-product relationship we have with Facebook is not the conventional one we've had with all other products going back thousands of years. This time, we don't know exactly what the price is, there's no ticket label or invoice to look at, it's a hidden, murky type of price that we thought we understood - Privacy.

Nobody can see us can they Monty?

Okay - so do I really care that a bit of software somewhere the other side of the world knows that I've been looking at electric sanders this week? No I don't. But some people do, and it's completely their right to care.

Is the Price Worth Paying?

As we now know, various companies have been trading your private information that you provided after simply clicking an innocuous-looking personality test. If you knew then that every bit of information you shared on this app would be sold to various companies around the world - would you have given it? I'm guessing most people wouldn't have.

Surely this is a flagrant act of deception/fraud? Facebook usually gets around this by saying you've clicked the Terms & Conditions when you register - a document that is 100s of pages long if you bothered to read it all and its many sub-links. And how many of us have done that!

Utterly fed-up by all this Facebook saga, many people have decided either to close their Facebook accounts, or have just never joined in the first place. The value they put on their privacy is not a price worth paying.

Is there a work-around?

Well, actually, there is. Kind of.

In an ideal world most of us would like to use Facebook's 'free' platform to learn more about DOP and other osprey projects without having the hefty, and still relatively obscured, privacy price tag.

Here's how: When you register with Facebook on a PC or Mac, surprisingly Mr. Zuckerberg only obligates you to submit a relatively sparse amount of personal details: Your name, gender, DOB and an email address.

No financial information, where you live, telephone numbers, what you do, what school/university you went to, who you're married to, what your hobbies are; nothing like that.

But if you wanted to remain as private as possible, would you actually even give your real name? Many don't.

If you decide not to use your own name, then presumably you would put in an equally made-up DOB and, if you want to, gender. So the only 'true' piece of information you're giving is an email address - something that can be so ephemeral, it can be created in seconds and, once you've received an email back from Facebook to register your account, deleted again.

Suddenly you're in - and nobody knows it's you.

Next, for an even greater layer of privacy, you completely box yourself in via the Privacy settings. Who can see your page - just you. Who can contact you - friends only (but you won't have any friends of course). See here on more details of how to box yourself in.

You don't post anything, you don't comment, you don't ask anyone to be friends with you, you don't put any photos up - you do nothing. You are Joseph Bloggs born at a time that you've created and nobody knows it's you - not even Mr. Zuckerberg. You don't interact with anybody, the only thing you do is look at a few osprey sites - or whatever else you're interested in.

Of course, many people want to share and upload photos and videos - that's the true function of Facebook. The point here is that to not lose out on the DOP Facebook content that we create every day, you don't have to; there's a work-around.

Electric Sander

So what about those ads? Does Facebook know about the osprey cross-stitch pattern that I looked up on Google yesterday. Well, yes they do, but so do most other social media platforms. The worst that can happen is that you may see the odd ad on 'your' Facebook page for cross-stitch patterns, but this is all done via fancy software. There isn't a team of people in California looking at Monty Fishface's Facebook account and actively, deliberately deciding to send him fish recipe books.

An osprey cross-stick pattern - for those with lots of patience

You can even opt out of some of these Facebook ads with a Facebook Ad-Blocker. See here.

We've come a long way since I had to run three fields down the Glaslyn river to get a mobile phone signal to ring Wendy in Cardiff. A lot has happened in 10 years and most of it for the betterment of osprey and environmental projects on the whole.

Of course it is right to be sceptical and suspicious of anything online, including Facebook. The key message here is that if you are careful and frugal about what information you put in, you can get out all the benefits of Facebook while essentially staying anonymous.

Don't get me wrong, we're not advocating that everyone that is not on Facebook give it a try - only you can make that decision based on your own values and circumstances.

If you do give it a try one day and don't like it - there is always the 'Delete My Account' button.

We will continue to work hard to engage with as many audiences as we can so that as many people as possible can watch and learn about these amazing birds - in whichever of the 10 formats they chose.

There simply isn't a better way of doing just that than visiting DOP for yourself and seeing Monty and his family in the feather. But according to the Survey Monkey research we did in January, 32% of people that follow DOP have never visited. They may be disabled or too busy or live too far away, so we try our best to keep you as up-to-date as possible via your computers, tablets and phones.


Pandion Privacy

It's been a funny week. While Monty has been getting to grips with a new female in his life, thousands of miles away Mr. Zuckerberg has been trying to get to grips with explaining social media intracacies to a bunch of not-so-technically savvy octogenarians.

Ospreys and Facebook work extremely well with each other. As long as you know some boundaries and red lines, you can make it work for you. I would actually go as far as to say that without Facebook, there probably wouldn't be a DOP today, certainly not in its current form. We receive no external or government funding - we (just about) generate the £150,000 we need to operate DOP every year from you, and Facebook has played a major role over the years in the way we can raise both our profile and income generation via the annual camera appeal.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the season with us - whether you're on Facebook or not.

Hey - this is PRIVATE!

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