ChristianBlog.Com is thrilled to be able to publicly announce the official launch of what we are calling the "Personal Contact Information" (PCI) feature!
Originally announced back on February 2nd 2009 under the name "Adult-To-Adult Exchange", we had this to say about this possible new feature:
|One of our long-term goals is to allow those members who can validate their are adults (over the age of 18) to share personal information with other that can validate they too are adults. We are calling this an "Adult Validation" system. A large amount of social websites have attempted to put a adult validation system into place. The large majority of them have failed. We might fail too, but we believe that even if we do fail a time or two, those short-term failures are worth it in order to provide additional features for those who are clearly adults. At the heart of this Adult-To-Adult Exchange is protection of minors. As a social website, our first and greatest priority is protecting of minors. Protecting them from adults and protecting them from each other. Up until now that level of protection has meant that those people who are clearly adults have had to have their accounts, their ability to communicate with other adults, greatly limited. We seek to resolve that! ChristianBlog.Com is not the only website attempting to solve this issue. Websites like myspace, facebook, live, and all the other big-boys in the industry have been trying to solve it for a number of years. We might not find "the" solution or even the best solution, but we feel that attempting to find A solution is the right thing to do for those members who are adults and desire to share more information about themselves. At the end of the day it either comes down to the fact that we find a solution, or we completely disable the ability for minors to join the website.|
One of our members had this to say about the feature back when we first announced it:
|I for one hope you can figure this whole deal out, not just for CB but because it could force a major change in the industry id "somebody" really get a working solution.|
Personally we 100% agree with him!
And, now we have done it!
What Is It?
Rather than try to rewrite what we have already wrote - because what we already wrote was pretty dead-on right - allow us to break apart the above quote to try to explain it in a little bit better detail.
|One of our long-term goals is to allow those members who can validate their are adults (over the age of 18) to share personal information with other that can validate they too are adults.|
By this we mean: We wanted to find a way for people who are CONFIRMED ADULTS to be able to share personal contact information with other members of our website who are CONFIRMED ADULTS and who are friends of each other.
|At the heart of this Adult-To-Adult Exchange is protection of minors.|
We believe this to be a vital aspect of our PCI feature!
If we cannot take the necessary steps to prevent minors from sharing information about themselves we are failing to do our job of protecting minors! Since before ChristianBlog.Com we vowed to ourselves to do whatever it took to protect the safety and security of minors from those who might prey upon them.
We have taken a direction that others have taken before - some of whom, we will admit, have since discontinued the method - which involves validating our members age by forcing them to provide a checking account or credit card payment to ChristianBlog.Com via PayPal.Com
Because PayPal.Com (the company we use to process our Premier Membership) requires an account to be linked to a bank checking account or a credit card, we can be 99% assured that the account holder is a legitimate adult. The other 1% of the time would be a case of a child/minor getting ahold of their parents bank/credit-card information and creating the account at PayPal.com This situation is the obvious cleat to the whole process. At the end of the day, however, there is really no way to know if any given member is actually a minor who has stolen their parents bank/credit account information. We say "1%" but it is probably well below even one-percent. Hopefully, with ChristianBlog.Com being a Christian website, there is enough honor and respect to hope that a child/minor out there may not do such a thing.
So what we have done is put into place the following "requirements" in order to access another members Personal Contact Information:
(1) The member must be 18 years of age or older
(2) The member must be a Premier/Gold member.
(3) The member must be a Friend/Contact of the other member.
(4) The member must request permission to view the other members PCI.
(5) The other member must authorize the member to view their PCI.
This 5-step process is perhaps the strongest process possible with the present global technology. Aside from forcing people to come to our office, showing multiple forms of identification, running a background check on them... from where we are we can find no better way to implement a system such as this.
|ChristianBlog.Com is not the only website attempting to solve this issue. Websites like myspace, facebook, live, and all the other big-boys in the industry have been trying to solve it for a number of years. We might not find "the" solution or even the best solution, but we feel that attempting to find A solution is the right thing to do for those members who are adults and desire to share more information about themselves.|
That said, we are not going to bind our self to such a statement. When we say "we cannot find any better way to do this" that does not mean "there isn't a better way" - There may be. But we have spent the better part of 5 months researching a way to setup a system such as this - and this seems to be the best way at this point in time. Rest assured if we come across a better way, we will do what is necessary to make the changes!
We have decided to allow the following information to be shareable:
Now a very important point here is that you can share ONLY WHAT YOU WANT TO!
We have taken a two-tier approach to sharing information with others:
(1) You can choose to enter or not enter any of the above options,
(2) You can choose to share only certain options with certain friends!
Yes, you read that right - YOU can CHOOSE what to share with CERTAIN FRIENDS!
Want to share your name and email with one friend - totally doable!
What to share your name and phone number with another friend - totally doable!
Want to share everything with yet another friend - that is totally doable too!
We have created what we believe to be the PERFECT solution to sharing Personal Contact Information!
See the screenshots below to get a better idea of how we work things.
First up is the form that you fill out that contains your own personal Personal Contact Information.
Again, you can choose to enter - or not enter - any information that you want.
As you can see from the above screenshot, the owner of ChristianBlog.Com (@abelajohnb+ (John Abela) ) has decided to share:
first name, last name, email, aim, skype, twitter, city, state, zip/postal, country, website
He felt that people knowing his phone number and physical address was not something he was comfortable with - so he left them blank.
And, he may not have had (he does, but just showing how the system works) yahoo messenger, msn messenger, and icq - so he left those blank too.
Again, because we believe in protecting our members, we have allowed our members to input only that which they feel comfortable sharing!
But it does not end there... for each member that they choose to share information with, they can decide WHAT information they want to share! (booyah!)
So in the above screenshot we see that (@abelajohnb+ (John Abela) ) decided that someone he was sharing information with was not somebody he wanted to have access to ALL of his information.
So what did he do? He simply set the access permissions for (email, phone, address) to "Not Viewable" - and bam, now his Friend/Contact can view everything EXCEPT those three pieces of information - how cool is that!
For each member that you authorize to view your Personal Contact Information you can selective choose what to show each Friend/Contact! The ultimate in protecting yourself!
So what if you decide to change what somebody can see? Simple: you can go back and change the settings for each person at any time!
You can even (of course) remove anybody from your list of approved friends at any time!
Ok, so what about security from hackers?
We got that covered too!
Because your PCI is the most important information about yourself stored within ChristianBlog.Com we KNEW we had to take extra steps to protect your PCI!
What we did is we took the same approach to the security of your PCI data that we used at our sister websites www.LockedJournal.Com and www.LockedPassword.Com.
This approach allows us to secure (encrypt) the data WITHIN our database - so if a hacker ever does break into our servers they will not gain access to your Personal Contact Information!
Take for example the following screenshot. On the top we see the normal data as it is within your browser - and on the bottom we see how the same information looks within our database!
As you can see, even a simple thing such as his first name "John" has been completely scrambled.
We use a multi-tiered encryption processes which include cryptographic hash functions such as whirlpool, symmetric block ciphers such as blowfish, atmospheric noise random integers from random.org, and a few other methods that we will not disclose. You can find out more information at this LockedJournal.Com page.
Lastly, to get to this new system simply head over to your Account page and you will see a new set of navigation options:
From there you will need to click on the "Manage Personal Details" page and enter in your desired Personal Contact Information!
From there you will also be able to view your Friends/Contacts that you have authorized to view your PCI and approve/deny/report any Pending Requests from your Friends/Contacts.
If you want to request one of your Friends/Contacts PCI simply head over to their profile page. If they are a Premier/Gold Member, and you are a Premier/Gold Member and if they have entered some PCI data into their account, you will see a link below their "View My Testimony" link which will say "Request Access To View My Personal Contact Information" - Click on that link and you will be taken to a page that will allow you to ask your Friend/Contact access to their PCI data! When they make the decision to approve/deny your Request you will be notified via a Private Message! If they authorize your request, head back to their profile and the link will now read "View My Personal Contact Information" - just click on it and you will be able to view the information they have chosen to allow you to see. Whatever information they have chosen to not share with you (or have not entered) will be displayed as a bunch of stars/asterisks (*****)
Simple as that!
Questions & Answers:
Is it a "two-way street?"
Meaning, if I approve somebody else to view MY information does that mean I automatically view THEIR information?
No. Unlike our "Friends/Contacts" feature which is a "two-way" approval system, the PCI is NOT a two-way system. Your friend can ask to view your information and you can either choose to give it or not, if you do, and you want to see your friends information, you'll have to ask them for it.
I am viewing a friends profile page and we are both premier members... but I do not see a link to request their info!
Well that would be because they have decided to not share any personal contact information. There is no need to display a link to request something that does not exist
Is there a time-based access?
This is a really great feature that we have thought about adding... but have not done it yet.
We think the ability to give access to one of your Friends/Contacts for 1 or 2 hours is a great idea! It is on our to-do-list but no promises it will get done, nor when. Again, sweet feature... just not ready for it yet.
What about the "Content Policy" and "no sharing of personal information"?
We have made a minor change to the ChristianBlog.Com Content Policy in order to make allowance for the sharing of information via this Personal Contact Information system.
The changes are:
|Previous Content Policy:|
|Private and Confidential Information: We do not allow the publishing of people's private and confidential information, either your own or that of others. TO PROTECT OUR USERS: ANY TRANSMISSION OR PUBLICATION OF ANY EMAIL ADDRESSES, PHONE NUMBERS, PHYSICAL OR MAILING ADDRESSES, INSTANT MESSENGER USER NAMES, AND/OR OTHER 'methods of contact' ANYWHERE WITHIN OUR WEBSITE WILL BE CONSIDERED A VIOLATION OF THIS POLICY. SAID VIOLATION MAY RESULT IN TERMINATION OF SAID USER ACCOUNT WITHOUT NOTIFICATION AND WITHOUT REFUND, IF APPLICABLE. ChristianBlog.Com has a zero-tolerance policy for the publication of private and confidential information.|
|Updated Content Policy:|
|Private and Confidential Information: Outside of the ChristianBlog.Com "Personal Contact Information" system we do not allow the publishing of people's private and confidential information, either your own or that of others. TO PROTECT OUR USERS: ANY TRANSMISSION OR PUBLICATION OF ANY EMAIL ADDRESSES, PHONE NUMBERS, PHYSICAL OR MAILING ADDRESSES, INSTANT MESSENGER USER NAMES, AND/OR OTHER 'methods of contact' ANYWHERE WITHIN OUR WEBSITE WILL BE CONSIDERED A VIOLATION OF THIS POLICY. SAID VIOLATION MAY RESULT IN TERMINATION OF SAID USER ACCOUNT WITHOUT NOTIFICATION AND WITHOUT REFUND, IF APPLICABLE. ChristianBlog.Com has a zero-tolerance policy for the publication of private and confidential information.|
When we sat down in our office to discuss "what should we allow folks to share" we came up with the list that you see, minus a couple we added in the process. We feel it is a good list. We have enough there to allow people to contact them via the most popular IM protocols, via email, even via phone or snail mail.
As the global internet continues to evolve and other popular websites/services come online we will consider adding them to the list.
There are a few that we flat refuse to add to the list, such as myspace and facebook because we truly do feel (see this and this) that those websites contain material unsuitable for Christians and should not be used. We also will not link up with IM clients that have proven to be unsafe or use unacceptable tactics to expand their network.
As always ChristianBlog.Com is open to hearing suggestions we could add to the PCI options to further help you communicate with your Friends/Contacts! Simply drop us a reply to this blog.
A Personal Message From The Owner Of ChristianBlog.Com:
When we first announced this feature back at the beginning of the year I know it caused quite a bit of buzz around the website. A lot of people were really looking forward to it (and sorry it took so long) and a few people really hated the idea of it.
I want to take a moment to try to reassure those of you who might be skeptical of this new feature, or think it is sending ChristianBlog.Com down a path that we shouldn't take.
Know that if your concern is 100%... my concern is probably 1,000,000 times more! I remember sitting around in the chatroom two or so years ago chatting with some of our members about the whole issue of sharing contact information. Even back then it was a pretty hot-topic. Most of our members a few years ago 100% never wanted to see the ability to share contact information. Now, those folks who are still around have come to understand there are times when the ability to share a small amount of information would be helpful.
Take for example a conversation I had with a member a few months back. The individual was going on a mission trip and a few of the members friends wanted to help financially support the person. But, how to get the person money? Hmm. Well, this will help solve that problem. Granted both of them would have to be adults and be premier/gold members - but at least now there is a viable option to solve this situation.
Another example that happened this year is when one of our members suffered some financial problems. A few friends of the person heard about the bills and wanted to help out - but, how to get a check mailed out to them without violating the Content Policy. Hmm. Well, now this too can be resolved.
Yet another example is when a friend finds out that another friend has just been taken to the hospital. Now we can provide a way to have access to the friends phone number to call them up and hopefully catch a family member at home, and be able to find out details and pray over the phone! Powerful stuff here folks!
Yet, all of this needs to have checks-and-balances.
Believe me when I say I have spent a whole lot of time thinking about the wisdom of this feature. Should we have it? If so, what kind of protection should we have in place? What about individual authorization? Can the system withstand hackers? What about protecting minors?
Well I am here, five months after announcing the possibility of this feature being added to ChristianBlog.Com, officially announcing this feature is here! I am 100% confident that the process is solid, that it is secure, that if used in wisdom by those using it, it will be an amazing new feature of ChristianBlog.Com!
I have been saying for over two years that those folks who are helping out ChristianBlog.Com by being Premier/Gold Members DESERVE extra features! If you are not already a Premier/Gold member, are 18 years of age or older... this is yet another amazing reason to become a Premier/Gold Member! No this is not about us making money - it is simply another example that I have tried very hard to make sure that I can give back to those who give to ChristianBlog.Com!
It is my belief that this new "Personal Contact Information" feature is going to rock not only ChristianBlog.Com but the entire "social industry". ChristianBlog.Com has already lead the way in multiple industry changing features... and I am pretty sure that this is going to be another one!
Be blessed everybody,
John B. Abela