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#

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‘Staring at the phone’ takes on new meaning

line drawing of smartphone
My smartphone looks almost like this now.

My smartphone croaked yesterday.

I know. What am I gonna do, right?

For one who was such a late adopter into the mobile scene, I’ve sure made up for lost time. I do just about everything with that phone:

  • Check my news.
  • Keep in touch with clients.
  • Read my email.
  • Post weird thoughts on Twitter.
  • Read ebooks.
  • Take pictures.
  • Make voice recordings.
  • Maintain my daily calendars.
  • Listen to music.
  • Handle my finances.
  • Even post to my blogs from the phone.

Oh, yes. I’ll sometimes make phone calls. But that’s the least important function. As far as voice calls go, that smartphone isn’t worth a lick.

But I’m scrambling.

Voice calls and text are no problem. I have another so-called “feature phone” (translation: dumbphone) kicking around, and it works very well. I can do some cool things like checking bank balances with a text. But I can’t really go online and do really heavy stuff with it.

How people use their phones

I read in SocialTimes that the average adult American uses his smartphone 58 minutes a day. The only real surprise is that you’d think it’s much more than that. But these numbers may also include those who don’t even have a smartphone, so there’s that. But still, I’m obviously not your typical American adult.

What’s interesting is the usage according to SocialTimes:

  • Using social networks: Nine minutes.
  • Sending and receiving text messages: 12 minutes.
  • Browsing the Web: Eight minutes
  • Sending and reading email: Five minutes.
  • Playing games: A tick under five minutes.
  • Actually talking on the phone: 15 minutes.

IPhone users spend a lot more time on smartphones than Android users, and will text more than the average. But they’ll talk less; I understand the quality of the phone might have something to do with that.

I’ve never timed my smartphone usage and never wanted to because I’m afraid of seeing the results. But my Web browsing and email are considerably higher than the average. I’m probably solid average with text messaging and social media — in my case it’s Twitter and Linkedin. Phone calls? Not so much; I’ve made nine phone calls in the last 30 days. Some were long; a couple of hour-long teleconferences, but that’s about all.

But reading the news is where I blow up the scale. I love RSS news feeds, and of course they’re sent directly to my phone. That’s my biggest time sink.

But here’s the funny thing. I chose not to have an Internet connection at home because I get distracted easily, and can spend a lot of time chasing online squirrels when I should be working. But with a smartphone there’s really no difference except maybe I’m staring at a smaller screen. It’s still a distraction.

Because of that, I’m not in any hurry to replace my smartphone. I can still do some things on it, at least for a while before it completely bonks out.

OK, so I’m making some adjustments. I can still use my smartphone some, but I can’t leave it on all the time. Puts too much strain on the innards.

I can still read ebooks, take pictures and listen to music from the smartphone — all that cool online stuff, so it ain’t dead. But it’s more like that old Palm Pilot I wore out several years ago.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Data on millions of Facebook users available online

Talk about hanging your business out on the street:

BBC News – Details of 100m Facebook users collected and published

Here’s an excerpt from the BBC story:

Personal details of 100m Facebook users have been collected and published on the net by a security consultant … Ron Bowes used a piece of code to scan Facebook profiles, collecting data not hidden by the user’s privacy settings … the list, which has been shared as a downloadable file, contains the URL of every searchable Facebook user’s profile, their name and unique ID … Mr Bowes said he published the data to highlight privacy issues, but Facebook said it was already public information … the file has spread rapidly across the net.

Seems you can go to one of those fire sharing sites (like Pirate Bay), grab the file, and see a whole bunch of people you know on it. Maybe including yourself.
Facebook says your info will not be shared if you “hide” it in the privacy settings. However, one criticism of FB (legion, for there are many) is that those privacy setting are not the default ones and it takes an advanced degree in engineering to figure out those settings.
And, in truth, so many Facebook users are not the most computer-savvy or security-conscious people in the world. In fact, Facebook is designed so the person can use it once he masters the art of finding the computer power switch.
Or something.
Once you get the idea of running a computer and going on line, the Internet can make a lot of jobs easier. And if you’re a Big Brother government type, a stalker, or some other kind of creepazoid, Facebook may have made your job/hobby even easier.
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Is there a replacement for Facebook?

Discontent about Facebook continues, and the social network’s privacy issues have been in the news a lot lately.

It’s become the issue that won’t go away, although I’ll wager those who are complaining the loudest about Facebook are still using it. How hypocritical is that?

I’ve had my say about Facebook, including why I shut down my account. Right now, my social media is more a this-and-that system, with Twitter and a few writer’s forums. So far, I haven’t found an all-in-one social media site that has all the goodies but none of the crap that I’ve come to know at Facebook.

Here’s an article from ComputerWorld that I’m reading. It’s interesting:

Is there a replacement for Facebook?: “There has been a great deal of discontent among Facebook users, and many are looking for an alternative. Are any sites ready to step in ? We look at the contenders.”

Writer Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols explored a few here: Appleseed (still in beta), Diaspora (which still exists only on paper), Elgg, Lorea, OneSocialWeb, Pligg, and Pip.io.

Here’s the spoiler:

Which one of these contenders will topple Facebook from its somewhat shaky social networking throne? At this point, I’d have to say “None of them.” Pip.io is the closest, but it’s just not ready yet … like it or lump it, if you can stomach the privacy issues, Facebook is still your best social network option for keeping up with friends and family. If Facebook makes good on its promises to do better with privacy concerns, it will remain the top social network. If it doesn’t — well, someone will invent a better social network, but it’s not here yet.

Then there’s a lot to be said about the decentralized this-and-that social networking system.

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Does Facebook need its own anti-malware service?

I got this from ReadWriteWeb, and am running it in its entirety. It’s interesting, even though the writers were too kind to Facebook. This, by the way, was a sponsored post–meaning it’s pretty suspect. My comments are interjected below.

Does Facebook Need Its Own Anti-Malware Service?: “

Does Facebook need to run its own anti-virus and anti-malware security system? That’s a question that may need to be addressed in the near future as the now almost 500 million users on the social networking service are facing regular attacks from rogue applications, phishing attempts and other sorts of hacks, not to mention the onslaught of viral, but often completely inaccurate reposted status messages that spread around the network like modern-day chain letters. These messages warn users about some supposed threat occurring on site, but are often either misguided or out-and-out lies.

Out and out lies, my butt. I spent about an hour chasing down something that a) sent random weird messages to my Facebook friends and b) was identified as malware by several excellent sources. This missive smacks of spin control to me.

Is it time for Facebook to step in and do more to protect its network and its users from threats like these?


Rogue Facebook Apps Top Rogue Anti-Spyware During Busy Weekend



The latest threat to make the rounds on Facebook is a rogue application dubbed ‘Distracting Beach Babes.’ The app compromised the security of thousands of users’ accounts by way of status messages that appear to be from friends. But when the users click through on the tantalizing link, they’re asked to give an application permission to run. The app then tells users they must update their ‘FLV player’ before they can see the video. Those that attempt to do so are sent off-site to another page where malware is installed on their computer.




This is hardly the first rogue application to take advantage of Facebook’s automated app approval systems. In fact, only days ago, a similar attack was underway. This one was a link to what was purportedly the ‘sexiest video ever!’ (Those hackers sure know how to entice, don’t they?)


Shoot, this wasn’t even the first attack involving the FLV player. If y’all haven’t read the sordid tale yet, do so


This particular application led to a very busy weekend for anti-virus firms, indicating a major push by rogue Facebook apps, says AVG’s chief research officer, Roger Thompson. Via the AVG website, Thompson reported that from midnight to 9 a.m. on May 15, its anti-malware software blocked more than 30,000 rogue Facebook applications, more than three times the rate of rogue anti-spyware.



In other words, the new anti-malware wave won’t be coming from email, IM or other random websites users are tricked into visiting. It will come from your Facebook friends… or so it will seem.



Thompson acknowledged that Facebook’s security team was ‘very responsive’ in identifying and removing these sorts of rogue applications, but Facebook’s by-default viral nature allowed them to spread rapidly and affect large numbers of users before the apps could be removed. ‘This attack was actually stunning in terms of scale,’ he said.


“Very responsive?” I’ll bite. This issue came to my attention May 2. If they were “very responsive,” this would be a dead issue and no more needs to be said or written. 


Oh. I forgot. It was a different video this time. That’ll throw ’em every time. Silly me.

Rogue Apps, Phishing, Scams and More



Other recent Facebook-related malware attacks have included fake Facebook password reset emails, the seemingly never-ending spread of the Koobface worm, the ‘stalk my profile’ scam (a rogue app with 25 variations, claiming it could tell you who visited your profile), the rogue ‘like’ app (which borrows the infamous like icon), and many others. Other unpatched attack vectors pop up everyday, like this security hole which researcher Joey Tyson (a.k.a theharmonyguy) describes as a ‘dream situation for phishing.’ This vulnerability is especially troubling as it enables a hacker to present a convincing Facebook login page that actually contains the term ‘facebook.com’ within its URL. (See it action here. Can you tell that’s not the real Facebook.com?)


The situation has gotten so bad that users, in an attempt to be helpful, end up spreading around messages about various threats. Unfortunately, the threats they report are often false or are simply harmless bugs that Facebook is fixing, adding to the confusion. Case in point is the warning that anyone who received ‘tons of friend suggestions’ was infected with a virus. The reality, ironically, involved a widespread misunderstanding of the actual Facebook friend suggestion feature. The situation is so out of control that people are now spreading jokes poking fun at the trend itself.

See my above comment. If this was a bug Facebook was fixing, this would not be an issue. Next question …?


Facebook’s Security Efforts to Date



For what it’s worth, earlier this year, Facebook implemented virus-scanning for the PCs of compromised users after they had fallen victim to an attack. The company also runs its own Security Page, which serves as a warning system of sorts. The page now has over 1.8 million fans (or in the new lingo, ‘people who like this’). But on a network of nearly 500 million, this is the equivalent of a drop in the bucket. And it may not be enough to combat this ever-growing threat.

Ohh, yeah. Online virus scanning of the end user’s computer. There are a few services that offer this; you will see their ads popping up every once in a while. Unfortunately, these are the kind of “services” that ad a whole different breed of malware to your computer. I’ll pass on that.


And Facebook implementing this virus scanning? The way they totally don’t give a rip about user security, I’d pass on that too. And if you have half a brain, you’ll likewise pass.

Sophos security researcher Graham Cluley recently pondered this same question, asking, ‘Isn’t it time that Facebook set up an early warning system on their network, through which they can alert their… users about breaking threats as they happen?’ The impact of such a feature could be dramatic, he explains. ‘Imagine just how many people could have been protected if a simple message had appeared on all users’ screens warning them of the outbreak.’



Whether an early warning system is actually needed is debatable. Another option would be for Facebook to more closely monitor the applications submitted to its platform. As the New York Times recently reported, ‘Facebook’s automated system for application developers leaves a door open to the creation and distribution of abusive applications,’ even if the apps’ ability to spread is short-lived.



But apps that only live for a few hours can still have thousands of victims. Maybe it’s time for Facebook to make sure they never get to live at all?



Image credits in original article: Facebook; Sophos


Bottom line: Facebook has not earned my trust. There’s no way on this earth I’d trust them to do anything with my computer. I won’t even let them wipe the dust off my screen. And now this?


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