Ask.fm is in the news at present, for bad reasons connected with bullying of teenage participants and their subsequent suicide. The Wikipedia article has the background - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ask.fm. Ask.fm show up on a Google web search with this description: Ask and answer. Find out what people want to know about you. Hmmm. It sounds like a place to ask some very personal questions. That could amount to relentless badgering.
I felt this needed investigating, so I set myself up on this social networking site. My username, if you want to find me there, is 'LucyMelf'. This is the link: http://ask.fm/LucyMelf.
It was easy to get set up. I had to provide my real name (Lucy Melford), my date of birth (6 July 1952), and provide a password of my own choosing. It was optional to give a location (but I said 'UK'), a description of myself (but I said 'Single lady'), a personal website address (but I gave the address of this blog), and a picture of myself (but I did, as below).
So, I was not pretending to be someone I wasn't. Anyone checking me out should think 'Not young, not so easy to needle or push around'. (I hope!) There was a passing reference to Ask.fm's Terms and Conditions. I submitted my details. I got an email acknowledgement straight away, with a link to get me back to my home page and ready to begin.
The Home page was simply a big option box that invited you to connect Ask.fm with four other social networking websites: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and VKontakte. I didn't want to do that, and clicked instead on my Profile again, and then on Settings. I noticed there was a 'Disable Account' button: that might be handy if my little foray into the murky world of networking turned nasty.
In Settings you could choose whether to allow anonymous questions from other people or not. I decided to allow them, for now. But I unticked every one of the email notification options - I didn't want to be pestered. Interestingly, there was a 'Blacklist'. Mine was blank, but it looked as if you could list people you wanted to block in that section. It wasn't obvious how that might be done, though.
I kicked off by looking at seven questions that were offered to me, randomly generated by Ask.fm I suppose. Here they are, with my answers. Remember this is all an experiment, to see how the site works, and where the danger might lie. I am not at all interested in getting sucked into whatever kind of networking this question-and-answer business may lead to. However, I gave serious replies.
Q: Do you prefer gold or silver jewellery?
Q: What is your favorite mobile app?
A: Gmail. [Actually I couldn't give a tinker's what my favourite app is]
Q: What day would you love to live again?
A: [I couldn't think of an answer, so I passed]
Q: When you imagine yourself as really, really relaxed and happy, what are you doing?
A: Driving. [This question was potentially dodgy, I think]
Q: If you have friends coming over, what would you cook?
A: Lamb and vegetables. [Whatever...it isn't a sensible question]
Q: If you were to write a movie script - what would it be about?
A: The correction of a gross injustice.
Q: What is the most important thing your country has given the world?
A: The English language.
After this, my Profile showed:
6 Answers [supplied by me]
Presumably the Likes come from Facebook, if a connection has been set up. The Gifts are a feature of Ask.fm, although I don't yet know how they come into play. There is a give-a gift button to click. Whether this leads to a place where you can buy and send real gifts of some value, I don't yet know. If this is the case, then I can see the scope for pestering victims to send a gift.
There was a box for asking a question. To whom was unspecified, but I nevertheless typed in: Would you ever want to be a politician? It was also possible to generate a random question. I unticked the 'ask anonymously' box, for this first occasion anyway.
As I write, there is an email message! It's from Ask.fm. They tell me that 'Lucy Melford @LucyMelf asked you a question on Ask.fm'. So presumably, all 65 million users, including myself, have received this message, and some of them might well wish to reply. Ask.fm give a link for any response.
Well, I'll have to see how this develops! I'll check later on tonight.