Facebook May Be a Ticking Time Bomb for Land Surveyors
With everything that is happening with the big tech giants this week, a lot of people are thinking about the sustainability of platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp. Quite a few that I have talked with are concerned not only with the future of their own personal data but also the questionable practices being used to monetize each and every aspect of our lives. I just wanted to share with you just one conversation that I had today with a student surveyor in the community.
Questions from a Young Surveyor:
"I only recently made a FB profile so that I could learn best practices in Surveying. Yesterday was horrible for me only because I could not access my notes inside FB, gathered from experiences shared by older surveyors. This has me wondering...Why do surveyors put all of their knowledgebase on Facebook inside closed groups, where it is impossible to search for anything specific and disappears everyday? In fact, they all seem to be creating competing groups, which, in my opinion is ridiculous. Isn't this further harming the profession?"
Anyone paying attention has to admit, she has a valid point. It is no secret that the surveying profession is having a tough time attracting and supporting new talent, difficulty maintaining awareness in the public eye and an even more difficultly in educating, mentoring and training new surveyors. Would it not be more beneficial in the long run to have all of our collective surveyor knowledge archived and accessible inside a site that Surveyors can totally control, like Land Surveyors United Community, where it can be organized and owned by land land surveyors, rather than Zuck? Even more importantly, where support isn't monetized? Look around you....there are no advertisements or spammers on LSU and your expertise can be not only share exclusively with surveyors, you can fully control your own groups too! This is what LSU was built for....to empower surveyors. We have low overhead and as a grassroots community, we run on member donations and traffic to our jobs board. It is as simple as that. Facebook, in many ways, has just become the print industry all over again for surveyors....privatizing the collective knowledge base. Indeed, Facebook was built for that, but LSU was built for you, the surveyor!
Just 2 years ago, there were only 9 Land Surveying related groups on Facebook. Today, there are 104 and counting. Here is a collection for you to sift though if you are interested...i gathered them all in one place for you. Why is this important? To illustrate my point that we are not working together. Every group is competing for attention from the same users, further splintering the divide.
Please don't take me the wrong way... I love the FB groups and for those who know the "square root of Arkansas" :) My favorite group The Field Crew isn't even a group that I created. You can learn a lot from the older, wiser surveyors in the mix. However, the ability to quickly spit replies and share a point of interest does not only exist on FB, yet they have made it so simple and convenient that many of us never stop to think how important the knowledge is for those who never get a chance to see the post...then tomorrow it fades into the abyss. There are a LOT of brilliant surveyors on FB, out of convenience, but there are also many attempting to build and grow group after group, essentially giving facebook all of the knowledge needed by the next generation (that doesn't use Facebook). We are killing each other while trying to compete for numbers. It shouldn't be this way. We should all be trying to UNITE surveyors in one place, so that we can have the most impact on the public and the next generation surveyor. Even if group admins would periodically archive and download the information inside groups and then reupload it to LSU into hubs, it would be far more useful to the next generation than leaving it locked up inside Zucks groups. Put it this way... LSU has one of the largest private facebook groups for surveyors on the platform. But even with over 38k surveyors, I stopped pushing the group 2 years ago because I saw the writing on the wall...literally.
Land Surveying knowledge should belong to surveyors, not Zuckerburg. There are now close to 20k surveyors on LSU but how often do you ask questions or share experience there rather than here? How often do you share a photo here inside the community, rather than on Facebook where it only gets eyeballs for a single day? What do we need to do to make this happen? Should we plaster the site with ads and sell your data to get you interested? That is of course a rhetorical question because I do not make any money off of this site and I will never sell your data. But I ask you this....If the community were to have a full blown mobile app, would you contribute more? I will build that for you if so.
My point is this.... Why not take advantage of the experience and expertise of the surveyors inside the community, where you can easily see the credentials of the other surveyors you communicate with? You can control the groups (hubs)the same way and with a lot more capabilities...all you have to do is ask and you can control your own hub. There are hub groups inside this community for every location on earth, all operating in unison. When associations and organizations are having a hard time getting people to their events, I say stop paying sub-par web designers to build stupid wix sites which never get found by search engines until years after the event has passed. Instead, simply be more active in your local hub and share your important announcement and events where they not only can be found, but also where you can send a notification to surveyors in any location. There is no reason to re-invent the wheel everytime you need to get important information out. The hard work of creating the platform has already been done for you. The only thing left for you to do is use it.
I know this may seem like a plug coming from me but I didn't build Land Surveyors United to be the king or controller of anything. I don't make money from the community and I will never sell your information. I built this community so that you, the land surveyor can easily find and post jobs, find equipment, share stories, support one another, organize locally, attract new customers for your business, train new surveyors and celebrate the retired surveyors of the world, who hold all of the knowledge needed if we are to ever fix the problems that exist, due to decades of not being connected and organized. Yet, this type of thing may never be fully appreciated because surveyors have seemingly become too comfortable with being taken advantage of by the current ways of doing things on the internet. This shouldn't be the case.
It appears as though the situation has quietly gotten so bad that surveyors have become disoriented when someone actually goes out of their way for over a decade to build a solution to their problems, if it isn't funded by advertisements. Why haven't the big print magazines and manufacturers mentioned this community in all of this time? Because I do not buy ads on their sites and I will not allow their advertisements dominate the sidebars of our community. I simply do not feel like monetizing the support issues and troubles of land surveyors is an ethical way to do business.
So again, this young surveyor I spoke to today has a valid point. Business as usual is no longer sustainable, considering the problems that business as usual has caused the surveying profession as a whole. Every organization seems content with being an island in itself, getting nowhere fast. New surveyors feel like a lonely island too. They don't even know what to do, many times, until they see how negatively more experienced surveyors react to certain things shared on Facebook, at times bringing out the worst in all of us.
Some surveyors in the field appear to believe that there has never been a better time to be a surveyor. But for surveying companies, the challenges are just beginning. The public has never before been as confused about the role of a surveyor as they are today. They are confused about having to wait 14 weeks for a survey and usually wait until the last minute to have a survey performed, as a necessary evil. Most of the time when my phone rings, it is someone trying to fix a problem caused by an inexperienced surveyor. The vast amount of fraud that circulates creates trust issues for which anyone rarely recieves closure. The splintered state of communication between surveyors and the public display of character bashing and nonprofessional disagreements only add fuel to the fire of thier confusion. Couple that with the unfortunate popular notion that any person with a GPS phone can locate anything and we have a recipe for disaster which must be mitigated. This situation will never be remedied and will only get worse if the surveyors of the world rely on Facebook to solve the problem. It will never happen because facebook does not have your best interest or future in mind when they make their decisions..
For 15 years, even before Facebook, Land Surveyors United has had a mission which can be found in the name. The importance of being able to find what you need to improve your surveying career should not be buried inside FB, monetized by the big corporations and blocked off inside now hundreds of small competing groups, all trying to game an algorithm for your attention. This is of course, my humble opinion. However, over the years I have met countless others who also read the writing on the walls -pun intended.
She concluded: "Too many surveyors are stuck in the past. It just seems lazy for everyone, knowing the challenges faced by the profession, to put their faith in FB to usher in a new generation. FB is great for sharing photos, but I need a mentor. My generation doesn't even use facebook...it's for old people. Let's bring everyone together and face these challenges as a community. I believe the way surveyors share all of thier hard earned insight and experience on FB to be total collective self sabotage, in the highest form. I will be sharing what I learn on LSU with other surveyors because it feels horrible knowing that FB and other sites with heavy advertising are making money off my support needs."