Tech

What Happens Online, Stays Online…Forever.

Snapchat_Party

You may have heard about the Snapchat scandal from last week: 23 year old CEO Evan Speigel’s, um, inappropriate, e-mails from his not-so-distant fraternity days came back to haunt him. Whether or not your opinion of him changed based on the content of the messages (in case you haven’t read them, just imagine what a life-of-the-party, frat bro would say to an audience of the like), there’s a good lesson in here about online communication.

Everything you say online can be dug up. It’s important to keep this in mind, even if you’re still in high school or college and don’t envision yourself as CEO of anything. Eventually, you’ll be applying for a job or internship, and those old party pictures or ridiculous status updates may come back to haunt you.

With the rise of social media in our personal lives, more and more employers conduct social media screenings as part of their employee background checks (37% as of 2012, and you can bet that number has grown). And, these checks dig deeper than typing a name in Google and seeing what happens. Sites such as Social Intelligence can pull information (that is made public) from your social media profiles. Sure, it may seem a bit “Big Brother”-y, but ultimately it’s information you put out to the general population of the internet.

According to this article, employees usually screen for the following:  discriminatory or insensitive comments/slurs, sexually explicit material, images of weapons (for instance, a Facebook profile picture of you posing like a thug with a couple pistols, as opposed to an album dedicated to your last hunting trip), and anything illegal (underage drinking, drug stuff, stealing cars, that sort of thing). Some businesses will do more digging, depending on the position you’re applying for, but you probably want to avoid this sort of activity as a general rule.

If, for instance, like Evan Spiegel or Mark Zuckerberg, you bypass the whole employer thing and start a business or multi-million (billion?) dollar corporation, your online history still isn’t safe from the public. Think about it: there’s a positive correlation between level of notoriety and the public’s interest in digging up your dirt. Recently, Mark Zuckerberg’s IMs from his days at Harvard were dragged into the light of day. While less offensive (depending on who you ask, perhaps) than Spiegel’s, it’s safe to say Zuckerberg would rather those messages remained private. Just for fun, here are more celebrity social media slip-ups that border on embarrassing and entertaining (and yes, the list includes James Franco trying to pick up the underage Instagram girl).

Ask yourself, before hitting “send” or “publish,” if you’d feel comfortable having this message under the scrutiny of a roomful of strangers? The country? Your grandmother?! Think before you post.

Also, as a friendly reminder, someone may take a screenshot of those weird Snapchats you’ve sent her…and use them against you later.

 

 

Tech Thursday: What’s the Weather?

Something to consider when engaging with your social media audience: the weather! After all, it’s hyper-local, and, let’s face it- it’s a decent conversation starter in real life AND online. Here in Maine, there’s always something weather related going on if you’re stumped for other topics.

In this video, we’ll let you in on some ways to get creative with it!

 

I Pity the Fool: A Brief History of Pranks on the Internet

Sasquatch_Foo

Before diving into this list, I’m going to disclose a little fun fact: I am incredibly gullible. The spirit of April Fool’s Day lives within me throughout the year. It’s exhausting, and I’m probably developing some deep-seeded trust issues.

In order to feel better about believing my friend’s hair dye changes based on external temperatures (I mean, why would you even lie about that?!), this post is  dedicated to people who betrayed by the internet.

1. Shark Attacking Dude on a Helicopter: Considered the first ever internet prank, this involved the melding of two pictures: one, a shark leaping out of the water, and two, a picture of helicopter training near the Golden Gate Bridge. The combined picture was circulated as National Geographic’s “Photograph of the Year.”

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Seems legit.

2. Fake NASA Letter: Last fall, a man from the U.K. posted a letter he received from NASA in response to a drawing entitled “A Breakthrough in Awesome Space Rockets, Now Give Me Some Money.” While hilarious, the letter was not written by NASA (turns out, this man has a portfolio of these letters, including Cadbury and the Guinness Book of World Records).

nasa_letter

3. Savetoby.com: Perhaps the darkest hoax on the list. Owners of the bunny named Toby threatened to kill and eat him, unless the people of the web gave him $50,000 by Easter of 2005. In spite of the rabbit recipe posts and some explicit threats made by Toby’s owner, when Easter rolled around, the deadline was bumped up to a later date. The whole ordeal caused quite an uproar, but Toby was spared (because…it was a joke).

save_toby

4. Pitbull: As part of a contest for energy strips he sponsors, Pitbull agreed to perform a concert in the town with the Wal-Mart whose Facebook page got the most new likes by mid-July. However, two men decided that sending Pitbull to Kodiak, Alaska would be funny, and probably beneficial to society. So, they set up a campaign encouraging thousands of internet users to “Like” the Kodiak Wal-Mart’s Facebook page. Pitbull followed through with the concert, but he brought the two men responsible along for the long flight to Kodiak.

Pitbull_takes_Alaska

At least he isn’t singing

 

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5. Diane from 7A: Elan Gale (a producer on The Bachelor) live-tweeted an unpleasant interaction with a woman he shared a flight with on Thanksgiving. Diane was an obnoxious flyer, so Elan felt justified in writing rude notes to her (even though she maybe had cancer). Except, she doesn’t exist. In the throes of travel boredom, Elan created this elaborate ordeal and was sufficiently entertained for the remainder of the flight.

6. @LennayKay Lives On: Manti Te’o’s  fake girlfriend’s Twitter account came back from the dead a month or so after the whole “catfishing” incident. The Twittersphere imploded (sort of) as people tried to figure out how @LennayKay rose from her virtual ashes. Well, it turns out that once a Twitter account has been deleted, it can be picked up again. Someone saw an opportunity, and went for it.

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7. T. Swift Concert for the Deaf: Similar to the Pitbull in Alaska incident, an online contest through VH1 to have Taylor Swift perform at a school was hijacked by website 4chan. The winner was Horace Mann’s School for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired. She didn’t perform at this school (since the contest was ruined), but she did donate some money  (after all, they were victims of the prank, too). Why do people gotta be so mean?

8. Death Star Petition: The White House’s site “We the People” allows citizens to present petitions online, and if it can get over 25,000 signatures, it will receive a response. One petition that reached the 25,000 mark called for the construction of  a Death Star. The petition was rejected, but Paul Shawcross (Chief of Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management & Budget) wrote a detailed and entertaining response riddled with Star Wars references.

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dub-the-dew9. “Dub the Dew”: The story of an fun, innocent PR campaign gone terribly wrong, because people just can’t help themselves. Mountain Dew  developed a new drink, and issued a “name our drink” challenge to promote it. The general public had a great time with this contest at the expense of Mountain Dew, and their new drink (pretty sure its name wasn’t drawn from the submission pool). This serves as a cautionary tale for putting this type of contest out into the internet: don’t let people name your stuff unless you are really ok with whatever they name it.

 

10. Twerk on Fire: Remember when everyone was talking about twerking? A dance that you either loved or hated, but maybe didn’t understand. A video came out in the fall of 2013 of a girl twerking, and falling onto a candle, thus proving that twerking is a health hazard. Jimmy Kimmel later revealed an extended version of the video, revealing that the whole thing was a hoax that doubled as an anti-twerking PSA.

Happy April Fools, and remember: just because you saw it on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true. Although, that Sasquatch video is pretty convincing…

Why Buzzfeed Has Us All Addicted

Why-Buzzfeed-AddictingA semi-alarming predicament: whenever I get on the internet, even if the goal is to pay a bill or respond to an e-mail, I enter some wormhole and realize I’ve just been perusing Buzzfeed for the past twenty minutes. Every. Time. How does this happen? Buzzfeed is ranked the 40th most visited site in the U.S., and in the past couple years has seen a substantial growth in traffic. Here are six reasons why Buzzfeed has become an addiction for me, and probably you, too:

1. Audience: Buzzfeed writers successfully reach a broad audience (basically, everyone who uses the internet). No one gets left out: for every post geared toward females, there is a corresponding post for males. If there are “27  Problems Only Introverts Will Understand,” there’s also “25 Frustrating Things About Being an Extrovert.”  Most websites tend to have a narrower target audience, but the idea here is understanding who they are and what they want to read about.

2. Content: Pleasing an enormous demographic requires generating some serious amounts of content. Generally, posts lean towards humor (after all, laughter unites), but social issues are also a powerful presence. Lately, quizzes are trending, such as “Which Power Ranger Are You,” “What State Should You Really Live In,” and “What Classical Author is Your Soulmate?” (apparently, H.D. Thoreau and I make a great couple). Most seem ridiculous, but then, one can’t help but wonder…really, though, what kind of cereal am I? At the end, results can be shared with Facebook friends or followers on Twitter, encouraging even more people to discover their cereal identities.

3. Images: Buzzfeed nails visual content, from the homepage to the actual post. Images on the homepage tend to be recognizable in the pop culture arena, which grabs attention and compels readers to check out the related post. Within the post itself, images and GIFs are used to enhance the content (although, once in awhile there’s something random thrown in).

4. Layout: There’s a lot going on on the Buzzfeed homepage, but ultimately it is organized in a way that doesn’t totally overwhelm users. The color scheme is simple, there’s a menu with clear categories, and a sidebar with most visited posts and links to other sites. For a site with crazy amounts of content, everything fits in a way that isn’t visually offensive. In other words, we tend to appreciate simplicity, and Buzzfeed makes mindless browsing easy.

5. Updates: New posts come in constantly. Last September, during an afternoon spent staring into the computer screen, a new post popped up entitled, “This is Probably the Most Important Song Ever Written.” Skeptical, I watched the video, which was Ylvis’ “What Does the Fox Say?”  This was about a week before the song dominated my Facebook newsfeed. Other sites may not require this constant influx of new information, but relevance is key.

6. Sharing Other Sites: On the homepage, Buzzfeed has links to other websites, and often features content from other places, including links to the original post. In other words, Buzzfeed recognizes information its audience will enjoy, shares it, and most importantly, gives credit to these outside sources.

I’ve finally come to terms with the inescapable hold Buzzfeed has on my internet productivity. And my apparent penchant for dudes that live in the woods.

Reason #674 Why Companies Need To Think About Moble: No One Has A Printer

Sometimes, I unexpectedly see something and it becomes a short term fact finding mission. It’s usually something I stumble on in the morning while perusing the internet.

The other day, while checking Facebook and drinking my mug of warm water in my pajamas, I saw this go by on my newsfeed:

hannafordcoupon

Now instead of thinking ‘Oh how nice of them to offer a sale on something that hardly ever goes on sale like produce’ I thought ‘Ugh, they’re gonna make me PRINT it?’ which I learned upon clicking through.

(Yeah I’m a jerk.)

I watched the comments and most people were properly grateful. A couple people asked about mobile friendly coupons and several people complained about having difficulty printing out the coupons (it required a compatible printer and browser).

I did this. I had to download some coupon driver to be able to print this out and it was kind of annoying. I did this at work because I don’t have a home printer, and I think few people do anymore with the advent of a lot of modern technology.

Even though I thought no one had printers at home, I thought I’d make this an experiment and have some data to back myself up or prove myself wrong. I asked my Facebook friends if they had a printer at home or at work or both. Here were the results of those who responded:

8 people have home based printers that were wonky/not reliable.
28 people had printers at work they didn’t seem to be adverse to using in a general way.
3 people went out of their way to say their work computer was not used for any personal purposes in their comments.
23 people who have home based printers have home offices they work remotely from or are self employed.
15 people have home based printers for seemingly personal use only.
Most everyone had multiple printers at work. (One of my Facebook friends has more printers than he does employees- ha!)

Now I got 60 people who responded… and if we took out the self employed people only 15 people had printers at home. 25% of my non self employed friends friends have printers (I believe a majority of the population isn’t).

So what am I trying to say?

If you are going to do something nice as a business, don’t require your customer to have a printer. Many of them don’t have a home printer; are restricted to personal printer use at work; or have a printer at home that is not reliable or probably out of ink.

A QR code or bar code can be stored into a smartphone and scanned on site as easy as anything. Of course this will require training of staff with how to accept these coupons but as the population using mobile phones continues to increase, it’s something we have to take into consideration as business owners and people who strive to be paperless.

This post is in no way picking on Hannaford; I am just using this as an example of how a good idea can be made better and more accessible. Because if you have a great idea, it might as well be both those things.

Wordcamp Boston 2013

wordcamp2013It’s not often I get to see my friend Matt in real life. We work together virtually on almost a daily basis and I consider him one of my best friends…  he just happens to live over six hours away.

So when he told me about Wordcamp and that it was 1) in Boston and pretty close for all of us and 2) that he was going, Alice and I went down to check it out.

There were around 400 people at the conference from all over the place so I didn’t expect to know anyone. Of course I am in line for sandwiches behind a guy I haven’t seen since college who now is working on a cool Wordpress plugin and I run into Tracy who I’ve only seen online yet lives in Maine.

In other words, I actually knew people! I mean, we were in Boston (very closeby) not Istanbul but still, small world.

The biggest takeaway for me? The need for fast websites. My favorite talk of the conference was by Chris Ferdinandi called ‘Wicked Fast Wordpress’ on this very topic.

As we try to make websites more interactive, interesting, and responsive to design, us website designers/developers have invariably slowed down how fast they load. If 70% of people will not wait more than 3 seconds for a website to load before moving on, that’s something we need to pay attention to. (I’ll do a whole blog post on this sometime soon I am sure.)

Year after year, website security is always a concern. No matter what the software, there is no such thing as a 100% safe website. But Sam Hotchkiss’ presentation about security was complete and a favorite of Matt and Alice (I was in another room watching a different presentation… the good news is that link goes to a video where you can watch his talk!)

And finally, there was more talk about responsive design: how to do it well, deal with issues unique to that process. If you want to know a bit more about it, click on this post we have about dealing with mobile users on your website. 

All and all, it was a great weekend where we not only got to learn new things from some very smart people but have lots of bonding time, mainly over food. We’ll be back next year I’m sure but hopefully be getting to see Matt before then.

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