Category Archives: Social Media

Democracy, Security and Social Media



Egyptian Revolution In the last six months we have cheered the use of Twitter and Facebook during the Egyptian revolution. How they were both used to get and spread information about what was happening and where, allowing the opposition to organize. When the Egyptian government tried to shut them down, the western press and government accused it of denying the Egyptians their rights. At the time few questioned how the west would react under similar circumstances. Lately the answer to this question is started to become clearer and the picture in the mirror is a bit ugly.

Unfortunately last week London and several other cities were rocked by violence. Riots broke out in several parts of the city, according to multiple stories Blackberries phones along with Twitter and Facebook were used to coordinate the rioters. Blackberries were used because messages are encrypted and even RIM doesn’t have the key. Blackberries are also cheap compared to iPhones or Android phones. Prime Minister David Cameron, suggested that social media including Twitter and Facebook maybe limited during riots. Leaving aside technical issues of trying to do this, which there are many, is this the right thing to do and does it cause more problems than it solves. Now you could argue as Prime Minister Cameron did that the rioters were a bunch of thugs and hoodlums and you don’t have the right to use technology to commit criminal acts. However isn’t this what governments like China and Syria label opposition and democracy protestors. If this policy is implemented in Britain, then what credibility does it have to protest a similar action in China, couldn’t the Chinese say we’re just following your lead. Not to mention the fact that if you limit social media (what ever that means) during unrest you are not only punishing the guilty but also the innocent. In fact those who are less tech savvy are more likely to be hurt. Tech savvy users can usually can find their way around government’s attempt to block services using various methods including Tor or VPN services.

Clearly blocking social media in a whole city or even a neighborhood is difficult both technically and socially. However what if you just want to block a single building, like a train station or a subway, well Bart, the San Francisco rapid transit system found a way, they simply shut down the cellular services in the subways. They did this when they heard rumors there would be a protest against the shooting of an unarmed passenger by a Bart policeman They simply shut down the system base station, disabling the wireless network. They did this without informing the various wireless carriers in the area or making any public announcements. So for about three hours there was no cellular service. Commuters couldn’t make calls to home, or work or even 911. Nor could you surf the web or doing any work that was online. The FCC is now investigating the shut down as a possible violation of the Communication Act of 1934, which bans radio or cellphone jamming.

Clearly social media has become a thorn in the side of both democratic and undemocratic governments. The issues are not only technical but also political. The ongoing battle between activist and various governments will continue well into the future as they continually leap-frog each other.


About.Me



Depending on your point of view about.me either strips the final layers of privacy from a narcisstic world or else provides a handy one-stop signposting to your Web 2.0 presence. As their tag line says, “It’s all about you.”

Like many people, your online life isn’t restricted to just one social media site. You have your friends on Facebook, your work colleagues on LinkedIn, random acquaintances on Twitter and family on Flickr. When it comes to pointing someone to “you” on-line, there’s no one place to go and this is where about.me comes in. At about.me, you can set up a cool picture and a biography, plus links to all of the social sites that you subscribe to.

To get an idea of what it’s like, here’s the about.me page of one of the founders, Tony Conrad. Looks pretty cool doesn’t it? There are editing tools to setup your page just as you’d like and there are stock designs if you don’t have a good photograph to use. To further appeal to the cult of me, about.me will provide statistics and graphics on who has been looking at your page.

It’s all very seductive, isn’t it. But let’s just have a little reality check here…this brings together your whole on-line life. Everything is linked to from one place, so if someone, say a prospective employer, wants to research you then it’s all there for them. They don’t even have to do any digging. Of course, you could have two about.me profiles, one for your public persona and one for your private life…

About.me seems to be backed by AOL amongst other investors and you might recognise a few of their advisors too.

The landrush for good names is underway, but I think the site has only been up a couple of months so I was able to snag my name without any numbers. If you are interested, I’d pop over and grab your page just in case about.me gets big.


At What Point Do We Run Out of Time?



I just attended a two-day technology conference aimed at higher education faculty and staff.  One of the big features of the conference was a track on personal learning environments and “technology engagement” of students.  In other words, how can faculty and staff use the technology tools out there today to engage their students in ways the students already understand and use.

One of the sessions I attended advocated creating an entire pod of space including blogs, Twitter, facebook, and wikis focused on one class.  One of the presenters bragged about how she had created a “mother blog” and all of the students each had their own blog, and every student was responsible for two weekly posts to their blog, and had to read and comment on all of the blogs the other students in the class were working on.  They were also supposed to Tweet whenever they posted an entry on their blog, and update the wiki with their new entry as well.  I did the basic college math and figured that to do this effectively, each student needed to be spending some 10 hours twice a week simply reading and commenting on their classmates’ blogs, if there were 30 students in the class and each blog took 20 minutes to read.  Never mind the hour or more it might take to post a respectable blog post, and then updating the wiki to reflect the new information.  Once they’ve done that, there’s still the reading assignments, paper assignments, tests and test studying, that has to go on.  This new “personal learning environment” was tripling the work load for these students, right out of the gate.  Multiply this by the number of classes they might be taking (let’s say 5), and suddenly, there’s more homework time than there are waking hours in a week.

I was not the only one to attend this session and make the same conclusion afterwards.  Who has time for all that?

As it is, I don’t have time for half of what I want to do.  I read about 10 blogs religiously, another 15 or so when the topic sounds interesting, plus local and national news.  I post on facebook, I write posts for GeekNewsCentral plus my own blogs, as well as answering emails and taking care of other online business.  And somewhere in there I have to eat, work, sleep, shower, and mow the lawn.

While I think “Web 2.0” and all of the social networking is a great resource and source of entertainment and information, I have my doubts as to whether integrating this so deeply in the classroom experience of college students brings any real value to the mix.  Seems like an awful lot of busywork, which I’m not sure any college student needs more of.  I don’t see these methodologies replacing current classroom teaching and assignments, either, for many reasons.

I will be interested to see if this truly takes off on my campus.


Infographic: Facebook vs Google+



I have spent a week on Google Plus (and quite a bit longer on Facebook) and haven’t really formed an opinion yet because most people I know still aren’t on Google Plus.  Until it’s open, and everyone can join, it’s hard to get a real feel for which you like better.  They both have their features, and many of those are very similar.

One indication may be that we have seen an inundation of tools that allow Facebook users to migrate their content over to Google Plus.  Is that an indicator that those on Google Plus prefer it?  Or, is it simply the newness of of Google Plus that is fascinating people?

Until the day that Google Plus opens to the world we will see endless comparisons.  I recently came across one that seems a lot more comprehensive than the others I have browsed through.  The folks over at The Tech Addicts put together an infographic that does a great job of illustrating the features of each service.  View it for yourself below and see what conclusions you can draw from it.


Want To Do Web Video?



The team over at Vitrue have produced a short primer on how to create good looking video content. It’s aimed “marketers” wanting to get into social media, but it has relevance to anyone who wants to produce video. I think it’s a better article than most that I’ve seen in this space as it actually gives recommendations for what to buy, but I’m not a video producer, so I can’t comment on their suggestions.

When preparing to shoot video, Vitrue suggests five areas to think about beforehand.

  • Who is the target audience?
  • Meet with your team and map out content ideas
  • As a team, develop the plan and schedule.
  • It will take twice as long as you think to produce the content.
  • Take your time to record the footage.

Vitrue talks about five important tools needed to deliver good quality video. Read the article to see what they recommend.

  • Camera
  • Lights
  • Sound
  • Editing
  • Exporting for the web

The last topic has a small piece of very useful information if you are new to the video space – encoding settings. They might not be perfect but the ones Vitrue suggest are a good start.


CyanogenMod 7 On The Nook Color



CyanogenMod 7I’ve had my Nook Color for about a month at this point, long enough to develop a real feel for how it integrates into my life.

Keep in mind, the Nook Color is not an iPad and sells for half the price of the cheapest Apple jewell. I’ve already got the latest iPod Touch with dual cameras, so I don’t need or currently want cameras in a tablet device.

The Nook Color shines best as a word-centric consumption device. It takes the Internet and turns it into a very portable book.

To be perfectly honest, the stock Nook Color version of Android is very locked down. Besides being a good reader platform for books and magazines, you can browse the web, do email, do social networking, and run a limited but growing number of apps (mostly paid but a few for free) from the Barnes & Noble Nook Color App Store. The Nook Color stock software experience is nice for what it does, but still rather limited overall. The included stock Android browser does include the ability to run Adobe Flash. The Nook Color has a bright and very clear 7 inch widescreen capacitive glass touch screen along with about 10 hours’ worth of battery life.

What makes the Nook Color a great value at $249 dollars is its ability to boot into other versions of Android FROM the built-in internal Micro-SD chip reader without affecting the built-in Nook Color’s Android operating system.

After experimenting with different bootable Micro-SD card arrangements, the best pre-built Android solution I’ve found so far comes from http://www.rootnookcolor.com, a website that is selling pre-configured versions of Android to give a good overall tablet touch screen experience starting at $39.99 for a pre-configured 4 gigabyte Micro-SD card.

Cutting to the chase, the best version I’ve gotten so far from Root Nook Color.Com is called CyanogenMod 7, also know as Gingerbread. This version offers great battery life (almost as good as the stock Nook Color Andriod at about 7 hours) and even enables undocumented Nook Color features such as its built-in Bluetooth radio. It also comes installed with the full Android Marketplace, enabling the ability to browse, download and install most of the available Android apps, now numbering in the hundreds of thousands. As mentioned above, since it’s running entirely from the Micro-SD card slot, the stock Nook Color Android operating system remains entirely untouched and completely intact. It’s not even necessary to remove the Micro-SD card to boot back into the stock Nook Color operating system since it comes pre-configured with a dual-boot loader.

While it’s possible to play YouTube and other videos along with apps such as Pandora, by far the most use I find myself making of CyanogenMod 7 is as a highly portable news feed consumption device. I am currently compiling a list of Android apps that take the best advantage of the Nook’s 7” display and will report on these apps in future posts.

Overall, the Nook Color opertated with the CyanogenMod 7 version of Android from Root Nook Color.Com offers a genuine Android tablet experience at a bargain basement price with very good overall performance.


Put the Google +1 Button on your Website



If you have a website then you are almost certainly interested in drumming up visitors and generating interest – what’s usually referred to as SEO.  Many sites use buttons on the home page and on individual posts to prompt readers to “like” the article on Facebook, “tweet” it on Twitter, or share it is some other way such as Digg or Reddit.

Now there’s a new player on the viral sharing block – the Google +1 button.  Google announced this several months ago and webmasters have been waiting for the opportunity to add it to their sites.  Given that Google is THE top player in the SEO game, this one has been very highly anticipated because of the potential traffic that may come along with it.

The wait ended yesterday when Google sent out the following email to everyone who signed up for the notification list.

Hi there,

You asked to be notified when the +1 button code was available, and today’s the day!

The +1 button makes it easy for visitors to recommend your pages to friends and contacts exactly when their advice is most useful — on Google search. As a result, you could get more and better qualified site traffic.

You’ll need to add a small snippet of code on the pages where you want a +1 button to appear. Ready to get started?

***CODE INSERTED HERE***

To stay current on updates to the +1 button large and small, please sign up for the Google Publisher Button Announce Group.

If you have questions when adding the code, check out the Google Webmasters Help Center. Thanks for your interest!

Sincerely,
The Google Webmaster Central & +1 button teams

Already I have seen the button popping up on various websites.  This could be a huge traffic boon for many sites, since clicks on the +1 button seem to lead directly to better Google search rankings.


New Infographic – The Demographics of Social Media



The website Advertising Age released a cool new infographic comparing various social media – namely Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  There are some interesting facts revealed here.  For instance the Social Media space is lead by the 35-54 age group, the leading country for Facebook is the US, but the second is Indonesia, the leading country for LinkedIn is also the US, but it’s followed by India, and females outpace males as Twitter users.

While some of this strikes me as common sense (like Twitter being dominated by the 35-54 age group), some of it amazes me (like there are significantly more female users and visitors to Twitter).  For anyone who runs a web site this is pretty good information to have.  It can provide a lot of aim to your marketing and SEO efforts.  For those who don’t run a site it’s still a bit of pretty interesting information to parse over.

demographics of social media


Casio Hybrid GPS Camera



One thing that everybody wants when they take a picture today is to have the camera save the GPS information of where it was taken. Most new cameras have GPS tracking installed, which works great when you are outside. However once you go inside there is no way to keep track of your location by GPS. This is the problem that the Casio Hybrid-GPS Camera attempts to solve. The Casio Hybrid-GPS Camera figures out your last GPS point and then tracks how far you are from it and the direction you are going. Using this equation it can keep track of where you are even inside. It is set up to enable precise positioning with out the lag of other cameras with GPS installed. It also has a world atlas preloaded which can show you pictures of landmarks near by and how far away are they.

The Casio Hybrid GPS Camera has a 10x optical zoom with a 3.0 inch monitor. The auto mode can quickly determine whether its night or day, whether the background is a blue sky or a forest of trees. It also is aware if there are faces in the frame. It optimizes every setting need to take a great picture simultaneously. There is also a setting which allows you to capture panoramic images simply by keeping the shutter button pressed. The camera runs around $349.99 and was a CES Innovation Award Winner

Interview by Tom Newman of The Fogview Podcast.

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