HOW TO BACKUP YOUR FACEBOOK (AND OTHERS) DATA?
IF YOU'RE A REAL GEEK
and Web 2.0 (or Semantic Web 3.0) addicted user, you are obviously dividing your virtual life between numerous Social Networks, such as: Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, mySpace, FriendFeed, Delicious (formerly known as del.icio.us), HI5...... and other stuff. We could also include your shared elements coming from Gmail, Google Docs and Google chats.
Of course, the success of these new portals (In June 2009, according to comScore, Facebook totaled 70,278,000 unique visitors, up 97% from May 2008 to May 2009) is based on the amount of data YOU provide (posts, uploads of photos, emails, articles, building of connections/friends/contacts, choice of applications shared with your tribe) rather than the excellence of the architecture (N.B.: if you can customise your page on mySpace or Twitter, you barely have a word to say on your design on Linkedin or Facebook.
SO, WHAT LEVEL OF DATA (POSTED BY YOU) ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
Still on Facebook, the "Chat" feature reached 1 billion messages sent per day in June 2009.
With Twitter, reaching 28 Million users in June 2009 (Quantcast) and 50% of them activating their status or posting a message at least once a week (Sysomos), it already makes a good amount of data and exchanges with your followers.
Fair enough, but what happens if for any following reason,
YOUR ACCOUNT IS DEACTIVATED?
It can happen if:
therefore you're assimilated to a vile spammer!
Indeed, the frontier between a spammer (hundreds of messages announcing so-called Web 2.0 Networking parties) and a real networker (with relevant groups and interesting articles) is sometimes tenuous, all the more when the network does not give you exact limits not to trespass (for-example, # of maximum friends requests/messages, posts authorised on a day basis).
b- The service changes its strategy and the work you've done is not compatible with the new business model (if there is one!) of the portal.
For instance, I used to store my bookmarks on an online portal Baagz (a kind of Delicious service subsidiary of Exalead). Switching from Internet Explorer to Firefox, I discovered that it was not Firefox-compatible and that the upgrade was obviously not on the roadmap as it had been decided to make the portal a Ning-like portal, enabling you to post your favourite images, videos... Needless to say that my data were definitely lost.
If you're lucky enough, you can be warned, as Yahoo Photos decided to shut down, due to the purchase of Flickr:
"Yahoo announced that they would shut down Yahoo! Photos on September 20, 2007, after which all photos would be deleted. During the interim, users had the ability to migrate their photos to Flickr or other services (including Shutterfly, Kodak Gallery, Snapfish, and Photobucket). All who migrated to Flickr were given three months of a Flickr Pro account.
c- A real spammer (not you, of course...) takes control of your account and spams all of your contacts on your behalf.
In this case, if your Social Network is clever enough to recognise your bona fides, you can hopefully defend your digital reputation and rapidly have your dear account restaured.
In Facebook, the process is:
1) Make a Security check
2) Verify you're the true owner of th account
3) Change your password
4) You're back!
HOW TO AVOID A FULL ERASURE OF YOUR SOCIAL LIFE?
Preliminary: the War of Data
Some of you remember than in January 2008 the famous geek Robert Scoble had his Facebook account deactivated because he ran a script given by Plaxo (competitor of Facebook, of course) dedicated to export email infos from his 5 000 friends on Facebook to ... Plaxo.
Facebook alleged that Scoble had violated its terms of service, while Scoble and Plaxo replied saying that personal data were property of the one who created them and that Facebook, offering his users to use their Gmail (or Yahoo or Hotmail) account to find friends on Facebook was not very clean on the subject.
a- The DIY (Dot It Yourself) or Quick&Dirty method
The easiest way is to use a screen capture tool to take a picture of your screen. For instance, Screengrab is a pretty simple add-on/module you can add on your tool bar.
Some Social Networks offer the possibility to export your contacts without any restriction, as Linkedin shows it.
You just have to export you emails into your favourite mail box and they will be rendered in .vcf or .csv files.
However, your Linkedin Inbox or your groups are not exportable (yet).
b- The off-line backup
Gears (formerly known as Google Gears), released under the BSD licence (OpenSource), was an answer to Outlook fans despising the fact that, without any internet connection, Gmail and its suite Google Apps were useless.
Of course, it is primarly working for ... Google products, such as: Gmail, Google Suite (Calendar, Docs, YouTube, Reader, Picasa). Nevertheless, the off-line feature has been extended to other products, such as: MySpace (Mail Search) or Remember The Milk (an online To Do List service).
Even is Gears is not specific to Social Networks (except for MySpace mails), the fact that it stores data shared by the likes of Facebook (messages, chats, documents, photos...) makes me think that, in the future, you could also have a Gears for Facebook.
c- The Social Networks backup specialists
SocialSafe, a UK company, has recently developed a technology based on Adobe Air.
The target, as for now, is for Facebook users, in the way that, once you donwloaded the piece of software and linked to your Facebook account, you can backup:
- your photos albums;
- your profile;
- your list of friends (presented in an panorama)
The result is rather interesting as you can visualise in one page your photos (per album), your profile (also in 1 page) and even your friends. More interesting is the fact that each friend is tagged with his Facebook ID so that a single click directly brings you to his profile, should you have to make (again) a friend request.
The price is rather fair ($2.99) but we would expect, in the future developments, to have a backup of:
- your Inbox;
- your groups (specifically the ones administrated by yourself);
- your apps and your Wall could also be useful (but, to be honnest, not a great priority)
Last but not least, a useful add-on would be to have backup for other Social Networks.
Lifestream Backup, is also a new actor in this field but seems to be more complete than SocialSafe, as it backups the following services:
Differentiating from its competitors, Lifestream Backup consolidates your online data on... the Cloud!
Thus, your data will be stored on Amazon S3.
For-example, you can synchronise your Google Docs on a daily or weekly basis and, as for your regular Docs, you can download them
on standard format: .xls (for your spreadsheet), .PowerPoint or .doc format.
Concerning Twitter, your updates can be downloaded directly to your Google HomePage or Google Reader, in an xml format.
As for your Friends (your Twitter "Following") and Followers, a sole xml page lists them, but with no hyperlink to reconnect with them.
If you compare with SocialSafe, you have more features and more services to backup, but the price is not the same (29.95$ a year, which might be a bit expensive, when a single Google Apps licence is 40$ a year) and it is less WYSIWYG.
Last portal to test was supposed to be Teasker but I never received the password confirmation and the contact box does not respond after .... 2 days!