How to choose your social media site

So many choices, so little time.
So many choices, so little time.

Somebody asked me about which social media to use, and here was the answer I gave. Let’s say it depends:

Facebook: People I know.

Google+: People I know and others who share common interests with me.

Twitter: A bunch of random people I don’t know.

Linkedin: People I’d like to know.

Think that covers it.

#endit#

Share

Facebook IPO brings memories of coulda-been contenders

Myspace's strength is in music promotion, but its social media model fell apart.

Of course it’s interesting watching some social media service that some college student dreamed up in his dorm become a multi-gazillion-dollar company with stock and everything. But with Facebook’s usage near the billions and other online companies hitting Big Casino on Wall Street, it was bound to happen.

Facebook didn’t popularize the Internet, and it wasn’t even the first social media site to show up. Half a decade ago it was trying to catch some crumbs dropped by Myspace. It was just another Web presence.

But Facebook, despite its security holes, privacy issues and the creep-azoid aspects of friending and poking other people, must be doing something right. Whether that sticks now that it’s gone public, well, that question won’t be answered for another few years.

While Facebook was negotiating out its initial public offering (IPO), an article came out in Mashable! about some of the other Next Big Things on the Internet. These are companies that had a great deal of popularity, broke some new ground, and fizzled. These are the companies that, if this was a boxing movie, would be telling you “I coulda been a contender.”

America Online: AOL is still around, though it’s hard to tell sometimes. The days of the free AOL demo CDs that will hook you up to the Internet for free as long as you give them a credit card number are gone. AOL was huge during the dialup days, but couldn’t gain traction as DSL, broadband and Wi-fi took over. But AOL was more than just a way to get online and drain your bank account; they were a community. The first real “walled garden” in Internet parlance. Members could get into various chat rooms and read news that was unavailable to everyone else. AOL’s Instant Messenger was revolutionary in itself, and a lady friend even considered having the (now defunct) AIM logo tattooed on her butt. Despite a disastrous merger with Time-Warner, AOL stayed alive by shifting gears. It’s now in the news business, with national (Huffington Post) and hyperlocal (Patch) up front. AOL is now in the content generation business and finding new ways to lose money.

Friendster: We’re talking late 1990s, early 2000s here. Friendster was one of the first social media sites and for a while, the biggest. I understand they still exist as a social gaming site, although I’m not sure anyone really cares.

Myspace: This was the first truly successful social media site until it collapsed under its own weight. Literally. Users were encouraged to load their pages with all sorts of gingerbread, and it often took forever for a page to load. Facebook, with its slimmer, one-size-fits-all design, ate Myspace for lunch. Myspace is still a favorite site for bands because it’s easy to upload music files, and the thing that may save the company’s butt would be to specialize in that. It’s changed hands several times and the purchase price reflects its fortunes; NewsCorp bought it out for $580 million in 2006, and later Specific Media purchased it for $35 million. Ouch.

GeoCities: Back in the early 21st Century there were several online companies that allowed you to build your own Web page to a pattern. GeoCities’ social aspect allowed users to link their Web pages by interest, so in effect writers could get together under the GeoCities network. GeoCities no longer exists, which probably means the experimental web site I threw together under its banner probably doesn’t either.

sixdegrees.com: A short-lived social site tracing the I-know-someone-who-knows-someone thing. Is it true everyone’s only six degrees (layers of friendship) from Kevin Bacon? The web site is still there, open to members only. I never bothered with it.

Second Life: Fantasy meets technology. Caught virtual fire when folks realized you can be anyone you want online. I’m sure Second Life got as much blame for divorces as Facebook does now. Second Life currency became as good as the real thing in some circles, and somehow dealing in stolen Second Life credits became a cottage industry for some unlawful types. Some of these Second-Life-based businesses kicked off its decline, along with issues with unstable servers. It still exists, if you’re interested.

Orkut: This Google company now has 66 million users, but you’d have to go to Brazil to find them. But back in the day Orkut was a social networking site with serious Google gravitas behind it. But Google does have a history of trying new things and abandoning them when they don’t pan out (see: Buzz, Wave), and the search giant is proving once again with Google+ that social media isn’t as easy as it looks.

Coulda been.

###

Share

The ol’ tried-and-true Facebook worms are still around

Watch out for Facebook weirdness.

From what I get, ol’ Koobface is still around.

An anagram of a popular social media site, this multi-platform computer worm is still hanging around in all its variants and wreaking havoc after all these years.

There are plenty of hoaxes and urban legends circulating around this piece of malware (like the hoary tale that it’ll burn up your hard drive), but there’s enough truth that shows what a contentious bugger Koobface really is.

In a rare show of anger against the folks who produce malware and security threats, the Facebook folks even calling the Koobface gang out. Naming names, all that good stuff.

But Koobface is still around, as you can see by checking the comment dates in this McAfee post. Some things, like pyramid schemes and chain letters, are not going away anytime soon ’cause they’re successful, right?

This came to my attention about a week ago when a friend got word of this creature through his Facebook account. What he got was a link to the Snopes site, and when he forwarded it to me (at my request) I had a look at it and immediately recognized the M.O.

For those who forgot, you might get a provocative-looking picture on your Facebook feed. When you click on it, you’ll be asked to download a viewer for the accompanying video because the one you have is allegedly out of date.

When you click on that, the fun begins.

I experienced something like this a couple of years ago. Like an idiot I clicked on a picture that showed up in my timeline via a friend, a picture that this friend never would have put up in a zillion years. Got the opportunity to download some program called flvdirect.exe — which triggered all sorts of weirdness:

  • The video was automatically sent to many people on my friends’ list.
  • The .exe file to the viewer sat in my /home/download file. I noted the name and ran a Google search. The program in question, flvdirect.exe, is billed as something that would help download torrents but is actually spyware. It’ll do all sorts of nefarious things on your hard drive and it monitors your surfing habits.
  • For the next hour or so, I heated up my high-speed Internet line. Running Google searches on the offending software. Firing instant messages back and forth with a Facebook (actually a real) friend who also got the video — from me. Posting my findings on Facebook. I finally got to bed at 2 a.m., exhausted.
  • My conclusion: Spreading malware sure is hard work.

Myself being the impulsive type, I shut down my Facebook account and started looking for other ways to communicate. It wasn’t until a year ago that I opened another account.

I’m a lot more cautious these days, steadfastly saying no to all those app requests. Third-party applications are the fastest way to screw up your Facebook experience, so I’m keeping my account an app-free one. Every so often when the app requests get heavy I’ll put up an announcement to this fact — a rude one, but not as rude as some I’ve seen:

I stole this off a friend's Facebook timeline; hope she doesn't mind.

With that thought in mind, enjoy your social media. It’s fun, a great time waster and all that. But there’s no reason to let it take your computer over.

Watch out for bugs.

###

 

 

 

 

 

Share

New quit-Facebook move has wealth envy at its core

There are lots of reasons for a person to want to quit Facebook, but objections to how insanely rich it made its founder isn’t one of them.

But as the social media behemoth prepares to go public and make what could be a record-shattering IPO (that’s “initial public offering” for those of us who put our money in CD’s of the Miles Davis and Willie Nelson variety), folks appear to be storming the exits. There’s even an I’m Not On Facebook Twitter feed and website, though it appears the people behind thee site are more interested in hawking T-shirts than anything else.

But the objection is that Mark Zuckerberg used to be one of the guys; now he’s a porcine one-percenter. He’s committing the grevious sin of making a pantload of money from Facebook.

OK, what’s the problem? More power to him.

I have my own negative feelings about Facebook and did shut my account down for a year before restarting it. It can be a colossal waste of time. By its very nature it shoots your privacy out the window. The user leaves himself to be flamed, cracked, stalked and generally violated with just a few mouse clicks. You have to use filters to screen the good information from the usual junk. Many third-party apps are malware just waiting to happen. And each new innovation puts your life a little more out in the street — like what’s that option that allows you to share everything you read online?

But it’s still fun and somewhat useful. Many of my friends use Facebook as the only way to communicate, eschewing even anachronisms such as email. There are some real blasts from my past among my Facebook friends, including old running mates from decades ago, former co-workers, kinfolks, some old girlfriends (awkward), even an ex-wife (tres awkward). Many of my blog readers come from my Facebook ranks, and the whole thing is good for business. I won’t knock that.

So Mark Z can probably buy WalMart instead of shopping there. Anybody have a problem with that?

Facebook isn’t my go-to social media site, though. Not even close. I spend more time on Twitter than any of the others, and tweeted incessantly during the last few minutes of the Super Bowl (a barnburner of a game — I tweeted that the game was so nerve-racking, if there was a toilet on the 50-yard line the players would be using it). I use Linkedin for professional contacts and get a lot of mileage out of the groups. I enjoy Google+ and picked up some story ideas from Quora.

But come on! So Zuckerberg won’t ever have to work at a WalMart as long as he lives; he might be in a position to buy the whole schmeer. Like who cares? Get a life! He came up with a product that at the time was far better than anything remotely similar (remember how long it took to load a Myspace page?). People like his product. He’s created value, whether real or perceived, and the users number almost into the billions. Apparently he’s doing something right.

I was once accused of wealth envy because my computers run Linux instead of Windows. Ain’t necessarily so. I have no problem with gazillionaire Bill Gates. I just find Linux meets my needs and allows me to really customize my system and use free software. It’s funny hearing some Mac users decry Gates and his billions, though the late Steve Jobs could afford to buy his black turtlenecks by the shipping container. But I digress.

I don’t mind the one-percent gang. I wouldn’t mind working for some of them. With those folks I stand a better chance of making my exorbitant asking price. I won’t have to worry so much about whether the guy is going to vanish come billing time, or whether the check would bounce. Instead, it’s a straight value-for-value transaction, and a rich guy (i’m talking self-made here; I don’t count the trust-fund brats in this equation) would understand this concept better than anybody.

Ditch Facebook because of the malware. Junk it because you don’t like to put your business out on Front Street. Shut it down if you’re wasting time instead of rainmaking. Kill it because it has no value for you. Scrap it because you can’t stand the third-party games, the inane postings, the fact your significant other is making time with a former flame, because those pictures of you lying unconscious in a puddle of what you hope is beer are messing up your chances of a promotion …

But quitting Facebook because it’s printing money for Zuckerberg is the wrong reason. Spin again to find another excuse.

###

Share

If your phone goes off and it’s nobody, you’re not alone

One of the things that took some getting used to was how active my Android phone gets. It makes noise and vibrates when I get a phone call, an email or a text message. Considering my own online/offline activity — not even counting all those alarms I set to keep my ADHD self on track, that’s a lot of vibrating.

So you can imagine my surprise when I felt my belt vibrate over my right hip, and when I checked it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t for anybody. It didn’t ring or vibrate at all. The phone sat inert in the belt pouch, and I only imagined the vibrations.

Welcome to the phenomenon called “phantom vibration,” which a study by the University of Worcester suggests is a sure sign you’re getting goofy about your phone.
It’s akin to those phantom pains amputees talk about, where a nonexistent foot itches or develops muscle spasms. Purely psychological stuff, and hard to explain unless you’ve experienced it.

Shoot, I feel enough like an idiot when someone else’s phone rings and I’m sure it’s mine. I’ve experienced enough of that to realize I get a little obsessed about that phone.
But when there’s no phone ringing anywhere near me, that’s when I know things are bad. What’s even worse is when I feel that vibration over my hip — while the phone is in my hand.

Turns out I’m not the only one who experiences this. I brought the subject up over dinner with a few good friends, all technophiles who would sooner leave the house without their pants than forget their phones. And all of these friends nodded knowingly when I mentioned phantom vibrations. The discussion became a heavy confession time for a few, and you’d swear a recovery group broke out right then and there. Lots of sympathizing but no solutions, but that’s normal. Like they say in recovery groups, we’re not trying to fix anything.

This study, as cited in the UK Telegraph, says workers who are issued a smart phone for on-the-job use, especially feel the stress that seems to trigger these phantom vibrations. They feel they’re not checking their messages often enough.
Psychlogist Richard Balding of the University of Worcester (why is it the British get to do all the cool research?) says it’s a stress thing — stress if you’re getting messages, and stress if you’re not.

According to the Telegraph:

” … this became a vicious cycle in which the more stressed people became, the more they compulsively felt the need to check their phone, the study showed … Balding, who led the research, said employers should seriously consider the burden that smart phones put on their workers … ‘Smart phone use is increasing at a rapid rate and we are likely to see an associated increase in stress from social networking,’ Balding said.”

(Note to employees everywhere: If your company issues you a smart phone, run like your hair’s on fire. Or negotiate a massive salary/wage increase. Your life is no longer your own.)

Others who use their smart phones as their link to social media may also feel the stress of always being “on,” or the anticipation of another message. Hey, if you get a text from Publishers Clearinghouse saying you’d won a few million bucks, you sure don’t want to miss it.

It’s crucial I stay in contact with the outside world. I do some social media stuff but it’s not a big part of my life. It’s not job-related, at least not related to my day job. But as I try to build something of a business on my own, contact is essential. It might not exactly be Ed McMahon calling from whatever realm he’s hanging out at these days, but potential customers and contacts have me keeping an eye on the phone. My own obsessive nature doesn’t help much either, but we won’t discuss that here.

Whoops. My phone is vibrating, and it’s nobody.

###

 

Share

Facebook and privacy? Only if you’re using the branded shower curtain

Facebook isn’t exactly known for its stringent privacy practices, so I found this a real hoot.

According to the tech-and-trends aggregator Mashable, you can get a shower curtain with a Facebook page design.

Look, merchandising with online and social media brands isn’t exactly new. Some years ago a lady friend contemplated getting a tattoo of the little AOL Instant Messenger guy; how dated is that?

But now you can wash up, lather, rinse and sing off-key, knowing your privacy is protected by the Facebook brand.

Gee, I feel better already. How ’bout you?

Here’s the link: http://feeds.mashable.com/~r/Mashable/~3/HtmHQgiA4N4/

###

Share

Social media: It’s about choosing your tools

Don’t call me a social media expert. I’m just an old guy who likes to keep up on things. If keeping up means playing with Twitter and the other media, so be it.

I really envy those who can work Twitter and Facebook like professionals, using these tools to build tribes, promote a cause, create policy, change public opinion, or make the unknown things popular. I wish I could be that good. I only know enough to be dangerous, and in fact my social media approach resembles a wrecking ball on a chessboard.

But I do have accounts with all the major ones, and I find each social medium seems to have a specific use in my compartmentalized life.

To say I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook isn’t entirely accurate. It’s more like a tolerate-hate relationship. I use it mostly because so many of my real-life flesh-and-blood friends use that as their sole means of communication. I’ve shut off all third-party apps, and stick with the messaging system and timeline. I guess Facebook is the thing if you want to keep up with your buddies and play online games, but things like FarmVille or whatever it is this week don’t exactly float my boat. I’ve also had problems with malware and security glitches through the site, and if I was running a Windows system I probably wouldn’t go near Facebook.

If this sounds like an anti-Facebook screed, you’re wrong. If I was of a more frivolous nature I might go in for all its trappings, including the games. But when I park at the computer, I’m generally all about business unless I’m tweaking my system. But in truth I try to look more serious than I really am; just don’t tell anybody.

I like Twitter enough to have two accounts there, though I’m finally starting to get the idea how to work it. Twitter is a mass unchecked stream of unrelated data at 140 characters per, and it’s up to the user to figure out how to filter such a random mess. I find it a lot easier with a Web app like Hootsuite, and when you learn the #hashtags a little bit you can get up-to-the-minute dispatches on whatever news item or trend you’re following. People really can have conversations, too, turning Twitter into a gigantic chat room.

There are other social media sites like LinkedIn (which I use for professional purposes), Eons for people over 50, and that now-irrelevant MySpace, buth those are bit players in the scene right now. Of these, LinkedIn has the most use but it’s not for everybody.

Google+ finally went public, and I think I’ve found my social media weapon of choice. It’s like Twitter in that you can do mass following, but the “circles” aspect makes a lot more sense out of it all. Your circles can include family, real-life friends, and people you admire. My own circles include writers, photographers, musicians, Linux geeks, and “bellwethers” — folks who know tomorrow’s trends today because they’re busy creating them.

In my very short time on Google+, I’ve had very good discussions on writing. I’ve picked up ideas for this column. And Google Plus is my go-to for getting the word out on some of my projects. In that sense it’s like Twitter except the stuff you send out actually gets read.

At first I thought Google+ would turn Facebook into another MySpace, but now I don’t think so. Facebook was merely a better-designed, faster-loading version of MySpace, but the audience remains the same. Google+ seems to be geared toward a more serious crowd, kind of a bridge between Facebook and LinkedIn. If anyone’s going to lose action to Google+, it might be Twitter.

OK, with all these choices, which social media to use?

It all depends on what you want to do with it. Business or personal. Serious or not.

###

 

Share