Game Over Foursquare

Foursquare logoIt’s game over, Foursquare. After several years of intermittent playing, I’ve decided to pack it all in and delete my account from the site. I’m no longer happy to take a service without questioning the value and cost to me and Foursquare doesn’t break even anymore.

Foursquare may have been at the forefront of gamification and I like games, honing skill and strategy to succeed, but the problem with Foursquare was that the limit of expertise was how much time you can spend in a local hostelry. Yes, there were occasional benefits of being a mayor, but most places that rewarded frequent visitors ran a loyalty programme anyway. Of course, the really good shops and restaurants knew you because they paid attention.

The reviews helped maintain interest for awhile but the puerile (“the waitress is hot”) and trivial (“the drinks were nice”) usually outweighed any valuable critical assessment of places to visit. In the end, I didn’t bother putting the app back on my smartphone after changing devices and that was the end of it all.

I’m not going to leave my personal data lying around for the next security breach, so it’s time to delete the account. To its credit, Foursquare make it easy to go.

Delete Foursquare Account

Facebook…you’re next.

vMix Debuts Live 4K and Social Media Integration at NAB 2014

vMix LogovMix is a video mixing software that provides live HD video mixing. Version 12 of vMix has already been released, ahead of NAB 2014. It was created by StudioCoast, which is an Australian company. In order to use vMix, you must have a computer that runs on Windows 7 or Windows 8 platforms.

vMix has many interesting features. You can do live mixing, switching, and streaming of SD and HD (up to 1080p) video sources. The sources of the video can be from cameras, video files, DVDs, images, and more. It supports AVI, MP4, H264, MPEG-2, WMV, and QuickTime. It also supports audio files that are MP3 or WAV.

There are ten different transitional effects that you can use. You can customize 4 transition buttons in order to have easy access to your favorite effects. vMix comes with built-in Audio Mixer which allows you to mute, follow, and delay any audio source. A VU meter is included to help ensure that each input level is broadcast ready.

Another cool thing about the vMix is that it allows for simultaneous recording, streaming and output. You can use it to stream to Ustream and YouTube Live. It is also possible to stream to 3rd party software like Skype or Google Hangout. Those are just a few of the multitude of features in vMix!

You can do social media integration through vMix Social app. This makes it easy for you to send Tweets and Facebook comments directly to live on air graphics and lower thirds. Select content from a tablet or smartphone or have it sent automatically.

You can check out vMix and vMix Social at the StudioCoast Pty LTD booth at NAB 2014. They will be at booth C8312. Staff of vMix will be demonstrating live 4K production and Twitter integration on a portable production box.

Samsung Reveals New Cameras for CES

Ahead of Samsung’s CES event on Monday, the Korean company has announced two new cameras to get the show on the road, the NX30 and the Galaxy Camera 2.

Aimed at the prosumer, the NX30 compact system camera extends Samsung’s NX range, though my guess is that it will replace the current NX20 model. The heart of the camera is a 20.3 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and combined with Samsung’s NX AF System II, should provide fast and accurate auto-focussing. The shutter speed can be cranked up (down?) to 1/8000 sec and in continuous shooting mode takes 9 frames per second. NX30 has a 3″ Super AMOLED touch screen for a viewfinder which can swivel out and rotate so that it stays in view from difficult angles. Hopefully the AMOLED screen won’t wash out in bright sunlight.

There’s also Remote Viewfinder Pro function that lets the photographer control several functions of the NX30 from a smartphone, including zoom, shutter speed, aperture and taking the photograph. That’s neat and as you might expect in this day and age, the NX30 has advanced sharing capabilities and can transfer images using both wifi and NFC to smartphones and beyond.

Samsung NX30

The NX30 continues the evolution of our award-winning NX series of cameras, bringing with it new and improved features such as a better imaging processor and our advanced SMART Camera offering. Not only does this camera deliver the performance users demand, it is also easy-to-use so that moments are never missed,” said Myoung Sup Han, Executive VP and Head of the Imaging Business Team at Samsung Electronics. “The NX30 allows photographers to shoot with confidence, providing a seamless ability to capture moments and share them immediately, delivering exceptionally beautiful photographs while creating an unmatched photo-sharing experience.

The NX range also saw the introduction of a new premium S Lens, the 16-50 mm F2 – 2.8 S ED OIS and a zoom lens, the 16-50 mm F3.5-5.6 Power Zoom. Both have a focal length of 16 – 50 mm (equivalent to 24.6-77 mm in 35 mm format) but I’m not an expert in photography so I’ll point you in the direction of the press release if you want to know more.

Moving onto the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2, this is an update of the previous Android-powered Galaxy Camera. As you might expect, the focus (sorry) is on the ease of picture-taking followed by easy uploading and sharing of the photos. The camera itself has a 16 megapixel CMOS sensor with a 21x optical zoom and is paired with a 1.6 GHz quad-core processor and 2 GB of RAM. As with the NX30, the Galaxy Camera 2 has wifi and NFC transfer capabilities and 50 GB of cloud storage is provided via the pre-loaded Dropbox app.

For Instagram generation, the Camera 2 comes with Smart Mode, which lets photographers choose from 28 different pre-set modes all designed to address different shooting scenarios and for those unsure which mode they want to select, the Smart Mode Suggest analyses the scene at hand and then recommends the best Smart Mode for a perfect shot. New Smart Mode “Selfie Alarm” takes five consecutive, high resolution images so that narcissists hipsters can select their best view and share immediately on their favourite social media site.

 

Samsung Galaxy Camera 2

From the press shots, it looks like it will be available in both black and white finishes as per the current model. More info on the Galaxy Camera 2 in the press release.

“Consumers love the GALAXY Camera, and this next-generation version was designed to improve on the successful predecessor, with upgraded and new features that will enhance the photography experience,” said Myoung Sup Han, “The result is a more powerful and portable device which continues to embrace the public’s passion for the social features of smartphones, yet also provides superior image control and quality. We are dedicated to making it easier for more people to achieve great results and with the GALAXY Camera 2’s host of creative features, anyone can capture stand out images.

If you want to know more and you are at CES, you’ll find Samsung at booth #12004 in the Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Pricing was not announced but I imagine it will be inline with the current models.

AVG Android Social Apps

AVG LogoToday’s Android apps from AVG are aimed at social media users rather than performance junkies whose needs were covered yesterday. AVG has two apps in this space, Image Shrink & Share, and Privacy Fix. Very different apps themselves but both are worth a look..

AVG Image Shrink & Share works on the premise that the average smartphone camera takes photographs which are unnecessarily large for social media purposes. Most people can’t be bothered to downsize the photos and risk incurring bandwidth charges by uploading the large photos anyway. Image Shrink & Share solves this problem by resizing photos on the fly before passing them onto the relevant social networking app. The original photo is not affected and stays on your phone or tablet.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you want to share a photo on Facebook. You review the photo in Gallery or Photos as normal. Hit the share icon and choose AVG Image Shrinker instead of the app you would normally use (it’s on the left in the screen shot which is from the new Photos app which has a different layout and background).

AVG Shrink & Share Apps Onward Sharing Apps

Then you are prompted for the final app that you want to use to post the photo, say, Facebook or Google+. Image Shrink & Share resizes the photo based on your default selection and then passes it on to the social media app (or other app) for comment and posting.

You can setup the default size for each application individually in the Settings menu. If you turn an app off, it doesn’t show in the second list presented by Shrink & Share, so it’s a useful way to declutter your sharing screen as well.

Social Media App wpid-Screenshot_2013-11-11-18-53-01.png

In practice, I found that it worked very well and solves the problem very neatly. Images resized correctly and looked good. If I had one suggestion, it would be to have a native resolution option on the resize settings so that photos can be passed through without alteration. I know that it’s not strictly necessary as I can simply choose to share directly to the app, but it makes the process consistent.

Overall, if you post lots of photographs to social media sites, this is a must-have app. Personally I’ve found it handy for uploading images to WordPress as it has a 2 MB limit on photos, so AVG’s tool gets round that problem for me.

Moving on, AVG PrivacyFix is less about sharing and more about controlling your exposure on Facebook and Google+. It’s a complementary app to the PrivacyFix website which covers LinkedIn too, but the app currently only looks at Facebook and Google+. It’s simply a case of giving the app access to your accounts after which PrivacyFix will make some comments and recommendations.

PrivacyFix Start

Here are the recommendations PrivacyFix gave me for Facebook and Google+.

PrivacyFix Facebook PrivacyFix Google+

You can tap through each and PrivacyFix will give you some information on the impact of changing the option and if you wish to proceed, show you what was done. Here’s some info on turning off Search History and then the output from opting out of ad tracking.

PrivacyFix Implications PrivacyFix Ad Tracking

AVG PrivacyFix is another great app. It’s certainly not one that you are going to use everyday, but it’s definitely worth running every month or so to check that your exposure on social media is at an acceptable level. Clearly you can use the PrivacyFix website to cover LinkedIn, but I hope AVG extend the Android app to cover LinkedIn and perhaps others such as Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, etc. I also think that this would be a great tool for parents to check the privacy settings on their children’s accounts and that’s a feature that AVG ought to promote directly within the app and website.

Both Shrink & Share and PrivacyFix are free apps, so go ahead, download them from Google Play and try them out.

Your old Google Buzz data is coming to Google Drive

google buzz logoOut of the blue I received an email from Google Buzz support which, needless to say, was a surprise. In fact, I felt like a time traveler when I saw it land in my inbox — the service began mercifully shutting down back in October 2011. Well, it is not officially dead yet, it seems, but life-support is about to be disconnected.

The email informs former customers that all of their old Buzz data is heading for Google Drive and will be arriving this summer. “On or after July 17th, 2013, Google will take the last step in the shutdown and will save a copy of your Buzz posts to your Google Drive, a service for storing files online”, the  message reads.

It goes on to inform users that two types of files will be stored:

  1. The first type of file will be private, only accessible to you, containing a snapshot of the Google Buzz public and private posts you authored.
  2. The second type of file will contain a copy of only your Google Buzz public posts. By default it will be viewable by anyone with the link, and may appear in search results and on your Google Profile (if you’ve linked to your Buzz posts). Note,any existing links to your Google Buzz content will redirect users to this file.

If you left comments on the posts of other users, then those will only be stored in the files of that customer. Comments that were deleted will not be saved. The files will be treated as all others in your Drive — you can share them, keep them private or simply delete them. For now, you can view the Google Buzz posts you have authored here.

Is the New Pope Using Social Media?

PontifexWe live in a world where the Pope can Tweet. Pope Benedict XVI was on Twitter. His handle was @Pontifex which sent out Tweets in English. There was also @Pontifex_ es (which was in Spanish and was the one I was following). All told, there were 8 different language versions of @Pontifex on Twitter.

Pope Benedict XVI was the first Pope to use Twitter. Although he was not the first Pope to retire, he was the first do so in the past 600 years. This brings up the question: What does one do with the Twitter accounts of a retired Pope? This was not a question that anyone had to think about before, as there was no Twitter, or internet, 600 years ago.

Here’s what ended up happening. Pope Benedict XVI decided that the next Pope would have to decide for himself whether or not he wanted to Tweet. The @Pontifex accounts became inactive during the interim between Pope Benedict XVI retiring and the election of his successor, Pope Francis I. The Tweets sent out by the retired Pope were deleted.

On March 13, 2013, the @Pontifex account(s) sent out identical Tweets in Latin that said: HABEMUS PAPAM FRANCISCIUM. Now, was this sent out by Pope Francis I, or by someone else in the Vatican on his behalf? The word on the internet is that it was from the newly elected Pope. Now, we wait to see if he decides to continue to Tweet.

Meanwhile, several cyber squatters swooped in to buy every possible iteration of Pope Francis domain names. That was probably to be expected. The unexpected story, though, involves a Chicago lawyer named Chris Connors who somehow bought the domain name popefrancis.com from GoDaddy.com in 2010 – long before there was any expectation that there would be a Pope Francis I. Lawyer Chris Connors has started the process of giving the domain name to the newly elected Pope.

As far as I can tell, Pope Francis I is not on Facebook (at least, not yet). There is a Pope Francis page written entirely in English that says “Not an official page”. There also is one called Cadenal Jorge Bergoglio that entirely in Spanish. It was set up by two women to respectfully support him, and is also not an official page.

Facebook Revamps its News Feed

Newsfeed Facebook introduced an update to News Feeds today. The idea behind News Feeds is to have a personal newspaper with all the content you are interested in one place. When it was first introduced according to Facebook, the News Feed was mostly text, with some images. Now News Feeds are primarily visual with images and videos becoming increasingly important. Facebook is trying to redesign News Feeds to meet what people are looking for today.

The first thing they announced was that images are now going to be front and center and more vibrant. This also means that ads will be more prominent, which is something businesses have been looking for. When a video shows up on your timeline, it will show who of your friends have shared the video. Facebook will also allow you to have choices of news feeds, so now you can just see all the music your friends are sharing and also the post from artist that you are interested in one news feed and another feed for all the public pages you are following. The sidebar will have a list of your feeds, the feeds will be listed by how you use them, with the most used at the top. Facebook News Feeds will also be consistent on how it looks and works over various devices. It will also be more responsive to the size of the device.

Facebook is letting a few people see the new News Feed first and then as is usual for them they will slowly release over time to the public. You can request to get in early by signing up on the wait list, however I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting to get in. I have to admit I looking forward to the ability to choose various feeds based on what I want to see at that time. I do wonder how they are going to integrate interest list into the new news feeds, they might have said but I missed it. I do know one thing that once it is released to the public there will be people complaining about the changes and those who will complain because it hasn’t changed enough.

Time to De-Clutter Your Social Media

bigstock-Window-cleaner-using-a-squeege-30983438Happy New Year! Now is a time when many people make New Year’s Resolutions. This year, instead of making one that you know you won’t follow through with, try something that you can easily achieve. Clean up your social media!

Social media can be fun, but it can also be a time waster. One way to make it work for you is to do a little gardening. Keep the healthy “plants”, and get rid of the “weeds”. When you get done, you will have crafted your social media into a more pleasant and enjoyable place to visit.

Start with your Facebook account. There are a couple of helpful apps that can quickly remove or replace unwanted posts from your Facebook page.

Tired of looking at countless photos of the brand new baby of your friend from high school? Unbaby Me will replace the baby photos with cat photos. (You can select something other than cats if you prefer).

Social Fixer got a lot of use during the recent presidential election, as people used it to eliminate all those political posts. If your Facebook friends are still stuck in November, you may want to give Social Fixer a try. You can set it to remove posts that contain a series of words of your choosing, (which could be something unrelated to politics if you prefer).

My way of de-cluttering my Facebook account was to completely and entirely delete it. Those of you who are still on Facebook might want to read a Forbes article that was written by Elisa Doucette. She walks you through a variety of ways to use the tools within Facebook to tailor what you see from your Facebook friends.

I’ve learned a lot about how to make my Twitter experience a happier one. Go to a particular Twitter user’s page. Find the button with the silhouette of a person on it. This is where to find the helpful tools in Twitter.

Got a friend who re-tweets a bunch of stuff that you have absolutely no interest in? You can turn off their retweets. There is also a button that you can use to block Twitter users whom you do not wish to hear from – ever.

I use this one when I find a Twitter user who appears to be using his or her account specifically to start fights, encourage drama, and to generally be a person who “does not play well with others”. How do I find these people? Usually, they get re-tweeted into my Twitter feed. The people you block lose the ability to communicate with you on Twitter.

You can also make lists on Twitter. Put all of your family members into a list. Check that instead of your main feed for important news and updates from your loved ones. Make a list of podcasts that you listen to, or of the Twitter friends who all play a certain video game. Narrowing down what you see can save you a lot of time!

Image Stock Photo Window Cleaner Using a Squeegee to Wash a Window by BigStock

Firefox changes it’s status with Facebook, now “in a relationship”

Mozilla is becoming more social. Today the Firefox web browser maker announced full integration with Facebook Messenger. The app works much the same as any Firefox add-on, but it has been built on some brand new technology.

Messenger for Firefox utilizes the new Social API from Mozilla. Users will need to be running the latest version of Firefox, but seeing as the browser generally updates users automatically, that should not be a problem. The extension doesn’t come with the latest version though — you will still need to visit the above link to install it.

The add-on will allow you to chat with friends and view status updates from whatever web page you are on, so no more clicking back to that tab that you keep open while you are surfing. And, Mozilla promises that this is just the beginning.

“Today’s Facebook integration is just the start of making Firefox more social. We’ll soon add support for more features and multiple providers.”

Where will the browser maker go next? My best guess would be Twitter, but it’s likely the company will look at all social platforms in an effort to keep, and grow, market share.

Freedom of Speech in the UK

Law GavelIn the latest podcast, Todd rightly asks about the apparent lack of freedom of speech on social media in the UK. Undoubtedly, it’s a complex issue but it is becoming increasingly clear that the right to free speech is under threat here in Britain. In this post, I’ll look at some of the issues, but to start with, I am not a lawyer (thank goodness) and this doesn’t constitute legal advice.

Unlike the USA, the UK does not have a written constitution guaranteeing rights. The closest the Britain gets to this is the Human Rights Act (1998) which only came into force in 2000. The Human Rights Act is the embodiment in UK law of the European Convention on Human Rights (pdf).  The ECHR’s Article 10 provides the right to freedom of expression but as will be noted from part 2 of the article below, there are plenty of possible exceptions. I’ve embolden the part that is relevant to the discussion here.

“The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”

Obviously, the UK police do not pro-actively monitor social media looking for offensive posts. A complaint has to be received by the police based on someone taking offence at a posting on social media. The UK law has increasingly moved away from “offence intended” to “offence taken”. This was primarily done to increase the power of law in areas of discrimination, where people could avoid convictions by claiming that sexually or racially offensive language wasn’t intended in the way it was taken. Now the law supported those who were offended by the sexual or racial innuendo, regardless of intention. However, the “offence taken” law has grown out of its discriminatory roots to take hold in almost any area of offence.

Much as the compensation culture has grown, a similar one has arisen that “bad things” are always someone else’s fault and they have to pay. Although it started with physical hurt, this has gradually extended to psychological hurt and finally simple feelings. Instead of “sticks and stones will break my bones”, it’s “I’m going to tell on you.”

Finally, both the police and the legal system have increasingly taken a view of what’s legal and illegal rather than what is right and wrong. Consequently, instead of the police looking at the social media post with a bit of common sense and telling the complainant to grow-up, the police are now obliged to follow procedure and take up the complaint.

Overall, these changes in the law and approaches to policing now mean that abusive and offensive comments are taken much more seriously than before.

Let’s take a look at three cases that show the variety of circumstances.

The first tweet to come to widespread notice was Paul Chamber’s tweet in response to his local airport being shut because of snow. “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your (expletive deleted) together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!” He was initially found guilty in May 2010 of sending a “menacing electronic communication” but fortunately eventually won his challenge in July of this year. The whole incident was farcical and made the law look stupid.

The second isn’t a tweet but a T-shirt worn in response to the shooting of two police officers that said, “One less pig perfect justice”, pig being an abusive slang term of the police. Barry Thew was jailed for four months for this, but many would have seen this as political commentary, particularly as it was about to be revealed that the police covered up their incompetence in a sporting disaster in which 96 people died by disgracefully blaming football fans killed and injured in the incident.

And finally, Britain has been embroiled in child sex abuse scandal involving a well-loved (but now dead) BBC TV personality. In the wake of this, a living person was named on Twitter as being a paedophile when he was wholly innocent and completely blameless. He’s now suing everyone who repeated the lie unless they apologise.

As can be seen, it’s a complex issue with both the freedom of speech under threat and the rights of others needing to be protected. The Crown Prosecution Service has recognised that there is potentially a problem and is intending to consult with the legal profession and social media companies. The Director of Pubic Prosecution, Keir Starmer, QC, has said that “People have the right to be offensive, they have the right to be insulting, and that has to be protected.

In a recent statement about another tweeting case, the DPP said, “Social media is a new and emerging phenomenon raising difficult issues of principle, which have to be confronted not only by prosecutors but also by others including the police, the courts and service providers. The fact that offensive remarks may not warrant a full criminal prosecution does not necessarily mean that no action should be taken. In my view, the time has come for an informed debate about the boundaries of free speech in an age of social media.

There’s hope yet.

Courtroom Gavel photograph courtesy of Bigstock.