Conferences and Online Safety 101

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If you are attending ISTE 2012, or any conference for that matter, there are many things to look forward to and be excited about. It's easy to get enthusiastic and when you use Twitter as much as I do, it's easy to forget to also think about safety. As conferences start rolling around, it's fun to follow hashtags whether you attend in person or not. People will follow #iste12 for example, for session discussions, resources and sometimes to find out where people are.

Warning #1
I don't meant to be sexist, but it seems that men are not as concerned about this, so this is especially for women: Don't publicly announce on Facebook or Twitter what hotel you will be/are staying at. A few years back, I had someone who follows me online show up at my hotel to meet me. It was not a mutually agreed upon meeting, I was not expecting this and he must have known where I was staying due to me being too public about my whereabouts. Silly me. I'm sure he meant no harm, but it scared me. It is good to know that hotels are not supposed to give out any information about whether or not you are a guest at their hotel to anyone. I now check with the hotel about their policy on this when I check in. Another FYI: They are also not supposed to say your room number out loud to you when you check in (unless visually impaired).

Warning #2
If you live alone, and you have enough of a web presence for others to know this, don't announce your departure and arrival times. This means your home may be unattended.

Warning #3
There are likely to be parties or meet-ups. Think carefully about where you are going, who you are traveling with and whether or not you really want your location tweets public. Use DMs or text messages whenever possible; especially if a meet-up is at someone else's rental or hotel. This one is for men, too: Think about whether or not you are "outting" someone else's hotel or housing location.

Butt Into Someone Else's Business
This blogpost came about because as I was searching around Twitter about an upcoming conference, I noticed someone had tweeted how excited she is about attending and where she will be staying. I am not linking to the tweet, nor did I capture a screenshot; doing either would only publicize her tweet further.

When I see these tweets from women I know, I will usually simply suggest that they not publicly announce their housing location and they may want to delete the tweets. It's only a suggestion and they're certainly free to do whatever they want. Normally, I try not to butt into other people's business but I do think we need to look out for each other. I always waver as to whether I should say anything or not, but then I think about the fact that I would greatly appreciate it if someone did that for me.

A note about Facebook. As you may already know, Facebook is well known for frequently adjusting their privacy settings. Even with notification, users are often confused. You may want to check your privacy setting on Facebook and be sure that if you want your photos, posts, likes, and comments elsewhere available only to friends or even posted on your wall at all, then that is actually what is set. Also, be sure your Twitter and FB passwords are secure. Click here for a helpful video from Common Craft on using secure passwords.

What do you think? Am I overly cautious? Should I mind my own business? What are your safety tips for attending conferences?

I look forward to your comments.

While you're thinking, if you're not already creeped out enough, you may want to try this live action interactive Facebook connect experience, Take This Lollipop.

Disclosure Statement: Common Craft has provided me with a free membership to their service with the understanding of no obligation on my part. I believe in the power of simple explanations such as those used in the videos created by Common Craft. When I use them in my posts, it is my personal choice with no benefit to me other than providing a valuable service to my readers.