Sunday 22 February 2015

Run Silent, Run Deep ; Track it anyway, Objects talking back better, Privacy on the internet today

Now that I've finally upgraded my smartphone after two years of of uhmming and aahing about wether to upgrade to 'another level up' with the same brand, I noticed that it was much easier to port the data over from the old to the new. This used to be one of the biggest bugbears when deciding to upgrade. Even your phonebook / callers list would be nigh on impossible to send over unless you stored it on your SIM card. The data would then be stored and be seen, but some of the contact details would occasionally go awry.

That was then, and this is now. It took less than an hour to send the lot over from phone to phone and my relief and joy at this made the rest of my day. It allowed me to spend a few more hours, just going through the phone itself wondering if I could make more use of the usual built in apps for memos and scheduling etc.

That's where I have to confess I'm a neo-luddite. My modus operandi for keeping a schedule to this day, is paper diary entries and sending myself text messages on the move. I no longer cringe at that confession, because it has worked where my smartphones have either failed, or in some instances, been lost in transit.

Luckily, when my phones were lost in transit, on both occasions they were sent back to me. One instance was at the concourse at St Pancras Station. And it arrived back without a scratch or a mark via the lost property office. My jaw was on the floor for the rest of that week, because I couldn't believe someone handed it in. It's great to know there is that much kindness still out there in the world. 

The issue of privacy and someone rifling through my phone, did occour to me when it came back, but this happened  pre 'Edward Snowden's leaks' ( an event in itself), and so I didn't give it too much thought. But what's the worst that could have happened? Someone could have copied the numbers and systematically rang them up and harrassed the incumbents?  That would have been pointless, daft and pathetic. Or someone could have gone through any of the other info on there. That would have been equally as futile as I make it a rule to not store my life history on my phone. Not out of paranoia, but common sense. I wouldn't walk around telling all and sundry about my life unannounced, so why do it on my smartphone, for no logical reason?

Security has become a bigger concern in the last year or so, and even applications that are using anonymity as a USP , are not without potential issues :-

How the 'safest place on the internet' tracks its users

Since the aforementioned Edward Snowden 'data leaks',  it's all seemingly become a double-edged sword. On the one hand, there is rational reason to keep an archive of the data, together with the GPS based location information for marketing purposes and general statistiical trending. But on the other hand, this data can then be used for all sorts of things, which may not necessarily be in the best interests of the consumer. Particularly in the case of an app like this one, where no one seeing your comments online can remonstrate with you if they find them offensive or disagreeable, for instance.

In effect, the aforementioned highlights and illustrates perfectly how far we've come in terms of interactivity online. It's that easy to just whip your smartphone out, leave some comments, and that's the end of it. But it's NOT the end of it, because the moral and ethical issues are complex.

For example, if it transpires that a violent crime or misdemeanor is commited soon after the posting of an inflammatory comment pertaining or alluding to comitting one, does that mean there is a right of protection veto in that instance, in order to catch the offender? Or does it mean the organisation has to keep it's confidentially agreement(s) in place, as to not violate the orignal terms and conditions which emphasise the anonymity clauses?

Ultimately, it's all about control. In effect, how much control do you have and exercise, versus how much control is the user allowed to implement under the guise of  a 'nom de plume'.

Smart devices are about being in control. But how smart are they? :-

When Objects Talk Back

At present, there is a level of artificial intelligence that is best exemplified by the concepts of 'auto-complete' and 'predictive text'. If they're both switched on in your smartphone's settings, you're probably writing long texts and posts on social media without recourse to much spell checking. That's because the software is automatically second guessing the word(s) you are trying to string together to form phrases and sentances.

But there are newer levels of A.I. that are adapting and trying to engage with you, in order to better deliver what you want. They exist in the form of complex hard and software systems which are integrated into our macro environments; nest and the heating system, for example, and also our treadmills and even refridgerators. I have a slight bugbear with all this control being surrendered over, and always look to see what or where the manual system settings and override is/are. Now that's just my sheer pragmatism at work as I don't trust machines to run my life for me as well as I can.

The years I spent in I.T. have still left me with a slightly raised eyebrow when it comes to thinking that any device can take it all over for you, and let you just get on with something else. And until the A.I. algorithims, together with the requisite hard and software integration is far more reliable and cost effective, the jury is still a little out for me. These devices are useful and a real leap forward, but it's early days yet as far as I'm concerned. 

'The internet of things' is the phrase given to this new age we've entered into, where everything is literally connected to everything and everyone else.  As time goes on, more devices will know more about your habits, lifestyle and even your connections with others. And as already mentioned, the amount of information that will then be accessible to third parties, may not be to everyone's approval :-

Privacy in the Internet of Things era: Will the NSA know what’s in your fridge?

Whenever data protection and privacy is mentioned these days, the whole 'orwellian dystopia' concept looms over the horizon like a black cloud. In essence, we're being watched and monitored more than ever AND it's supposedly mostly without our consent, if reports and scribes are to be believed.

More importantly, our devices and smart technology is continously monitoring our keystrokes, swipes and offering suggestions to help us in our work and play times. So the question that needs to be addresed, is how far does this electronic assistance, and 'mysterious monitoring' go?

Fifteen years ago, the internet was a slower place, but a more fun place to be, in my opinion. You'd surf, go to a website and window shop and that was the sum totality of your experience. Now everyone has the ability to access it. Even someone the remotest of areas can plug into the network, without using a computer; a smartphone, even a basic one, should be more than enough to get connected. And the speed, variety of data and the whole concept of interactivity on a global scale, has become something my generation wouldn't have imagined, let alone conceptualised as a reality that quickly, so easily.

But all of this has come at a price. We willingly give snippets of our identity within five minutes of talking to a 'friend of a friend' or even near complete strangers, on social media networks. It's become de rigeur to post up pictures of nearly everything we do, like some sort of badge of honour, or even just in the name of sharing our experiences, again with sometimes near complete strangers. It's all been a very gradual change of gear, and we're all part of the fun and frolic, too.

But no one wants to end up being stalked, harrassed or even tormented and bullied on the internet, because of the respresenation of themselves that is on there. The aforementioned emphasis is important to stress that it's not necessarily really them.  Unless of course, they're tweeting or posting on a more than hourly basis, with videocam and microphone updates to boot. Now that's a harder thing to act out, than just being yourself. Imagine being in that state twenty four hours a day, seven days a week; it's not for the faint of disposition and it's certainly not for everyone due to the time and energy consumed and dissipated in the process. 

It's in being your truest authentic self, that in my opinion, matters more than ever these days. Letting machines and software 'run more of the show', isn't conducive to good long term interactivity amongst people, let alone with the machines themselves. We aren't designed to become less reliant on our cognitive abilites and reasoning, to the point where your existance is best served doing...what exactly? If you're doing less around the house, and less at work, what do you have more time to do?

Enjoy life, strengthen and even rebuild relationships, reconnect with your inner self, and switch off the phone and laptop and spend some time in nature. I do this on a regular basis. It works and it's as habit forming as using all this technology is. Try it.

In effect, what we used to do, may very well become a way of life again and we can adapt and switch on and off, accordingly. It's ironic, and yet it's all doable.

As far as I'm concerned, all machines are tools designed to help us, and not to become the masters to which we are mindlessly enslaved. I suspect I'm not in a minority when I say that.If you're feeling drained in your existance, without any known emotional or psychological stress generators, ask yourself how much you use the internet and social media in an average day. That could well be what's taking up far more of your time and energy, than your mind and body can handle. 

In which case, reducing useage and spending more time doing other non social networking activities will make a noticeable difference.

Shapes Of Things Before My Eyes ; Social media cul de sac, Sharing content a la Dale Carnegie & Zuckerberg looks to the future

The unstoppable rise of social media and it's usefulness, has been increasingly prevalent in the last five years. More significantly, once facebook floated ( the IPO - initial public offering- was on the 18th of may 2012) onto the stock market with such a phenomenal valuation, it opened the eyes and minds of all the other tech companies in the same pool. Twitter followed suit and had the biggest IPO at $25 billion. That's a lot of money for something in a category that was once derided and blamed for the stock market slump of 2001, also known as 'the dotcom crash'.

Whilst there's thankfully little danger at present of such a scenario happening again, it's interesting to note that social media marketing has had an increasing amount of dissent  poured onto it, in the last year or so :-

To Be Blunt, a Lot of Your Social-Media Marketing is Getting You Nowhere

CopyBlogger made an interesting decision to not use facebook as part of their marketing strategy anymore. And it wasn't a knee jerk decision either :-

Why Copyblogger Is Killing Its Facebook Page

A bold move in the face of current trends? Maybe not. This isn't the first time I've heard that people are drilling down regards the marketing strategies on social media, and I dare say it won't be the last.

The primary reason given, is the old Click-Check problem. There's a swathe of click-farms out there, all waiting to help you generate popularity on your page or presence. In real terms, however, they amount to a risky self-deception, both in the short term and the long run. For those not in the know, click farms are where you can pay for 1000, 10000 or even 1000000 followers or likes etc, and this is done to improve your 'social standing' amongst other corporates. This in turn has a halo effect on brand value, pricing and so on.

The trouble is that it's use has become so openly prevalent in the last year or so, that the game is up and the joke has worn thin. The lack of actual engagement, follow up and interactivity are the clearest signs of click-farm troubles. However, you don't even have to be a willing part of the scenario in order to end up being targeted by such third parties. I've had all manner of 'bot' ( robot) style, data farm/ data mining accounts follow me on twitter in the last 12 to 18 months, and I wrote the 'click check' article referenced in the above paragraph, as an 'en garde', just in case anyone else out there was going through the same. The signs are pretty obvious and I've covered this in the article.

Clearly, the whole point of using social media is to win friends and influence people. But you don't have to resort to 'buying them' in bulk :-

How to Win Friends and Influence People (While Sharing Social Content)

The Dale Carnegie flavoured vibe here is not to be sniffed at, and is all valid and actionable. In effect, keeping criticism, condemnation and complaints online to a minimum, pays dividends. This doesn't mean you should entertain an anodyne, plasticised version of yourself by any means, but no-one likes a moaner. Unless of course, it's for comedic effect.

Sustaining a stream of whinges online of the 'woe is me' variety, should be best dealt with offline first. I try NOT to go online if something isn't right in my life, as although I love interacting on the interwebs, I find it a bit odd and slightly gauche to be throwing 'I'm down' stuff out there before I've had a chance to deal with it and move on in the physical world.

Thinking ahead is key in the world of technology and even more so with social media developments. Mark Zuckerberg isn't a man to rest on his laurels :-

Mark Zuckerberg's Grand Vision for the Next 10 Years of Facebook

With over 760 million users of facebook per month ( at the time of writing), it's with a large degree of confidence that Zuckerberg can soldier onwards and create a vision that encompasses VR ( virtual reality) technology integration, publishing of magazine and newspaper content, and much more besides. In effect, the only thing stopping him and his team will be the competition that he knows about, and those who are waiting in the wings trying to find a way into the scene, in order to get as big as the menlo park outfit. A tall order, considering the size and scale of facebook as an operation, but anything is possible in the world of social media technologies.

The other potential thwart, may be international laws and  practices. Witness the ever increasing dissent regards data privacy and consent (or lack of), with regards to it's useage and manipulation. Which in itself also brings me back to the start of this post, and the choices that lie ahead for many social media users, both on a personal and corporate level. How much to engage and where best to put those energies, will require a bit more thought, patience and strategising before the markers and flags are put down.

Social media engagement and the pay-off, are no longer as instantaneous as they used to be, due to the sheer volume of users creating their own stories and tribes. That means continual rethinking, regular innovative content and most importantly patience, are now the order of the day to get results.

And of course, a smidgeon of good karma and luck, helps to seal the deal. Reciprocating kindness and passing the gratitude onwards, is always a good thing.

Sunday 1 February 2015

Social media blunder diffusion, 7 social media moves that are good & Needing adversity to succeed

Have you ever made a faux pax on social media? Maybe that comment on facebook turned into a tirade. Perhaps that tweet turned into a typhoon of negative responses and kickbacks. Fear not, for you're not the only one :-

How to Defuse an Ugly Social Media Situation (Infographic)

I've first hand seen a lot of stuff 'go down' on twitter, and you sit there and think as to how on earth it can get so out of control. Hopefully, with the aforementioned slab of advice, YOU can avoid such pitfalls and traps. And so can I.

Social media isn't all aztec challenges, hidden depths and swamps, waiting to catch you out. But as I've always maintained myself since 2007, when I started to become more active on there beyond the odd myspace post, if you wouldn't say or do it in real life, then think VERY carefully as to why you're doing it on the web. That's the basics and that in itself is pure common sense.

There's more of that, over here :-

7 Simple Social-Media Moves That Work

All of these are about reaching outwards, rather than focusing on the self. More importantly, that's how social media works most effectively. Everyone can sit there blathering on about how they feel and look etc, but ultimately what you're sharing has to connect with an audience. That requires an authenticity in your writing and knowing how to let that come through, without feeling like you're bleeding it out or even ranting. As with all other things, practice makes perfect.

When you get what you want in life quite easily, it can sometimes bring on a feeling of 'is that it?' or even a little false sense of security, which can bring on a touch of boredom and even hubris. When we have to work hard at something, then there's a very different feeling attached to the reward structure :-

Malcolm Gladwell on Why You Need Adversity to Succeed

Having an obstacle to overcome  or a hill to climb towards your destination, metaphorically speaking, gives you much better sense of reward, which is tied in to our need to achieve something in order to feel rewarded. It creates an interesting dichotomy when you look at those born into priviledged circumstances, who may then struggle to find something else to direct their energy and drive towards. It's not always the case, but children born to the wealthy can have a harder time than those born into leaner circumstances. Boredom and ennui can creep in, so it brings us back to the issue of having a sense of purpose and direction, which doesn't necessarily mean making more money, but brings us towards the concept of work and usefulness.

Our communicative skill, coupled with our need to achieve and create some tangible value somewhere, is something that is wrapped up in our psyches. It may stem from our infancy, or it may well be hardwired into our genetic pool. In any event, the practice of setting goals and meeting them, will in itself bring us closer to reaching and even exceeding our percieved levels of achievement.

And then you can use all the available social media tools at your disposal, to spread the word. Being inspired and being inspirational, go hand in hand, too.