Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Three Gems From the Web - Every Tuesday (18)

Hello and happy Tuesday,

I figured since we will be staying a little more time inside as the cold season is approaching, we might need some good laugh every now and then. Therefore, today I will be proposing three funny and witty Instagram accounts that could sprinkle some humor into your feeds for the winter. Hope you enjoy them:

1. Quarter Life Poetry - is basically a female targeted satire that is accompanied by various drawings or animations to round up the good jokes. They also have an online store where you can buy various items with the messages they create on them. I find them inspiring, creative, and definitely fun.

2. Insta-Chaz - has been recently featured in a BBC interview. This is how I discovered his account and I think it is brilliant. He draws stick-men on post-it notes. That simple. His parallel account Mr. Whale features a whale drawn on post-it notes in various "circumstances". Check him out, you're going to like him.  

3. Girl with no job - by Claudia Oshry is hilarious. She is just making fun of dating disasters, workout procrastinating, and the sort, but she is a real phenomenon with over 2 million followers. 

That's it.

Have a nice week!

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Big Data or Big Brother?

Social media is all about trading one's personal information. When you register online you actually choose to provide your personal data (name, email, photos, names of relatives and friends etc.) in return for a service that allows you for a fast and easy way to be in contact with your loved ones. 

As Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the US Center for Digital Democracy puts it: "Facebook’s vision of its member base is a bunch of people naked, exposed and targeted at will by anyone who wants to do so". And indeed this is quite a correct overall picture.

But this is not the main issue here. Indeed there is a lot of information we are willingly providing to social media platforms. We might even say that they know more about us than some of our close relatives or neighbors. But their business model is based on trading our personal information in exchange for profits. As just selling our data will not work for different reasons, a lot of other information is collected about us (behavioral tracking). Selling our social and potentially economic behavior seems to be very lucrative so social media platforms and advertisers are collecting other types of data about us, as they are outlining our social profile so that advertising companies can provide us targeted commercials with the aim of increasing the sales of their clients.
And this is how the big data behind social media is created. Wikipedia says "big data is a term for data sets that are so large or complex that traditional data processing applications are inadequate to deal with them. Challenges include analysis, capture, data curation, search, sharing, storage, transfer, visualization, querying, updating and information privacy". The big data behind social media is all about us, about our preferences, about our desires, our likes and dislikes, finally about our life.
This kind of big data created a big controversy (still ongoing today) related to ethics and privacy of collecting such data.

As regards ethics, the issue is the following: Is it fair that our social behaviors are traded as common goods? Is it fair that we are stripped of our right to make informed and free decisions. We are offered advertisements based on what  the advertisers think we want, suppressing offers for products that we might be really interested in. How relevant are targeted advertisements is still very debatable today. It happens to me often to visit a certain product or company's website, without the real intention to buy something and then get tens of targeted advertisements of that particular product/company. I do have the impression that in most of the cases their algorithms are too simple or they make wrong assumptions based on the multitude of data that serves as input. Or it might happen that the algorithms are good, but the range of companies/products or advertisers that embrace this practice is low, so they just serve you what they have.

Besides this, opting out of the tracking is impossible at this point, as no platform offers this solution (except in some paid services) and, in the absence of any legal framework, that cannot protect users against abusive behavior.

As regards privacy, the idea is also rather simple. Although you know you are being tracked and you do provide your consent for the use and sharing of such behavioral data, you never know exactly to whom are they shared with, to what purpose and how they're going to be used. This can give rise to certain abuses (sharing towards companies that will misuse the data) or accidents (data breaches that can lead to public disclosure). There is also the problem of anonymity. Although most trackers claim to track anonymously we know that this is very hard to achieve or very easy to brake, if intended. We have seen some progress in this area in recent years as platforms provide more options on privacy management, but only for data that you agree to share consciously and not for behavior data, that is being tracked through different means. For this data you might also have some options, but only in selecting between various types of commercials that you want to see (see Facebook’s or Google's ad preferences pages), not for opting out  the commercials or stop the tracking all together.

US digital ad spending by device 2013-2019


This business model is highly unlikely to change in the near future as platforms earn their profits mainly from these activities (see picture and the rise of mobile). Nevertheless actions against it are being taken by multiple stakeholders and the user tracking industry is changing right before our eyes.
On the one hand, there are applications that you can use to filter the types of ads platforms will serve you. Opting out from all of them will not mean you will not get any more ads but you will not get targeted ads (one example here). Basically, all platforms offer such features, but tracking is also done by other advertising companies through different other means. In some cases the opt-out is just not there.

There are also some apps that claim on showing you what platforms know about your preferences. One example is here, in a form of a Chrome plugin. Based on this input you can see what your potential profile is and try to change your behavior in such a way that you can fool the trackers. But with what effort and what could be the  outcome?

There are also the apps within the category called "ad-blockers". They will remove most of the ads, delete some of the cookies and try to keep advertisers away from you. You can find many apps of this sort, a useful example might be found here.

All in all, a big battle is carried out there in the Internetosphere for us, the consumers, and our economic behavior. New tracking technologies are on the rise and also new blockers. Legislation is trying to keep up, but it seems to lag at least one step behind (see EU Cookie Directive). Since the stakes are on us, the consumers, we'd better pay more attention to this in the future. 

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Three Gems from the Web - Every Tuesday (17)

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

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This past week I've been watching interesting talks from world-class events themed around technology, social media and the internet era. Since I find some of my discoveries to be so powerful and so useful, I felt eager to share them with you, and what better opportunity than The Tuesday series "Three Gems from the Web".

But first, a little reminder of why I do this series and to what end? I started it roughly 20 weeks ago (I skipped a few weeks) mainly as a means of becoming useful to you, my beloved visitors. I believe that the older we grow, the more we value our time, and in this ocean of options and information flooding coming our ways, suggestions of good, interesting, quirky, actionable content can be useful to all of us. I've made a habit of asking my friends and the people I meet to suggest great internet resources, and I am sending your way my best discoveries. None of the entries are sponsored in any way. On the contrary, I try my best to include mainly free resources, but sometimes, the paid ones are worthwhile investing in.  And remember, nothing good is ever really for free ...
The bottom line is: I am not trying to sell you anything, I am only trying to be useful and get you engaged with our content because I believe that our choices speak louder than our words.

As for the gem events that I found in the last couple of weeks, here are our three picks:

1. The Nantucket Project - Originally founded in 2010 by Tom Scott and Kate Brosnan, this event is a business, tech and cultural conference held on the Nantucket island in Massachusetts in a tent overlooking the harbor. Great minds gather there every year to discuss on the state of the world with a broad topic as a topic for each year. The organizers offer some subsidized places for students and scholars, but the fees are on the expensive side. Nonetheless, there is plenty of material that you can check and learn from on the social media channels. Here s their YouTube channel.

2. Mastermind talks - Is a entrepreneurship conference but has such a humane and balanced approach that it really impressed me. Attendance is quite selective but there is plenty of material on all social media platforms from past events, that are incredibly valuable. Jayson Gaignard, the mastermind of Mastermind Talks is a person worth checking out, too.

3. CeBIT - I thought it might be nice to add a huge and interesting European event. CeBIT is a German technology fair and conference that addresses everyone interested in technology and innovation. It is more of a conventional event than the previous two but it is also much more affordable. It also holds a special panel for bloggers, which I find very interesting.

There are plenty more out there, and I am sure I am still to discover some of the best ones. But, in case you don't know of these three, and are interested in keeping up with the technology game (and not only technology), they are worthwhile checking out.

Sending good vibes your way!

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Facebook Live Map - Some empirical findings ...

I don't know how aware you are about the Facebook Live Map. but if you haven't noticed it, it sits quietly in your left bar on the desktop version of your  Facebook Page, It is the first one in the APPS tab. And, be advised, once you dive in, your worldview might change forever.

It is, basically, a map of the world that is highlighting all the live broadcasts that happen on Facebook, in real time.

I find it astonishingly clarifying, and so might you, if you are curious about the ways society works in the digital era. Recently, I've spent a good few hours (maybe days) on this platform and creeped in other people's live broadcasts so as to get a probe of how people around the world like to showcase their lives. Here are my first 10 purely empirical conclusions:

1. Stereotypes - If you aren't a very nuanced analyst of the world, Facebook Live Map will definitely substantiate your stereotypes. What I am trying to say is that you will find a lot of "in your face" content, exuberance, diversity. People are still testing the platform not realizing how exposed they really get, so they would flirt, smoke, swear, sing, hate or preach with little self awareness; they are truly raw.

2. Countries mysteriously missing - For some reason, Canada doesn't appear on the map. I wonder why? I could not find an explanation online. Help me out!

3. Professional broadcasting - The Western countries, especially the US, show the largest percent of professional broadcasting of all the regions. Although it makes a whole lot of sense for media companies to use this technological opportunity, Eastern Europe, for instance seems clueless in this respect.I haven't seen one company in Romania (my home country) broadcasting live on Facebook while I was looking (by professional I mean conferences, radio or TV shows, lectures, sermons, shows, etc).

4. Mobile data traffic prices  - If you pay attention you can distinguish really easily which countries have affordable mobile data traffic and which don't. How? By analyzing how many outdoors broadcasting people actually make. For instance, US seems much more affordable than Latin America, and Romania seems definitely more affordable than Greece. Just saying ...

5. South East Asia - Is booming with Facebook Live contrary to my expectation. I would have expected that they would be more restrained but they are not. They are also very imaginative with its use. I came across people broadcasting their TV screen transmitting a film or a sports event and commenting it. They also seem to have huge follower numbers as opposed to Europe, at least for the moment.

6. Regional particularities - Appear ever more prominent.As you can imagine, crossing borders is the easiest thing to do on Facebook Live Map. While doing so, the overarching feeling is that languages sound alike, people are alike and behave alike.

I will give you an example: all Scandinavian people go to bed earlier than the Brits, the Dutch or the French. Or, at least, they don't feel any urge to go live at midnight.

7. Middle East - Is all male, but, on the other hand, I went and checked, and the gender imbalance in this region starts with the very creation of a Facebook account. They are, on average, 75% male to 25% female Facebook users in the Middle East.

8. Romania - Is aching with "manele"(Oriental inspired music generally played by the roma/gypsy  minority and associated with a certain lack of culture and bad taste) and bad language.

9. Urban vs. Rural - Urban areas, especially capital cities, are predominant across the globe.

10. New York is awesome even on Facebook Live :))

I will answer the question you are probably thinking of: why does this matter at all?
I would say that Facebook Live Map is an incredibly interesting tool, that can help you explore the world, prepare for the world, and ultimately get exposed, either shamed or appraised. Please don't get me wrong, I am not trying to be judgmental in any way. I cherish the courage and the selflessness of the people who experiment with Facebook Live. I wish I could be this authentic. Nonetheless, for those interested in the social, at a global scale, this tool allows an incredible window for observation.

Let us know what is your opinion about Facebook Live Map. Do you enjoy it? Do you find any use for it?

Thursday, 29 September 2016

I'm Going to Webstock 2016!


Tomorrow I will be breathing the same air and thinking about the same topics as Adrian Hadean, George Buhnici, Dana Rogoz, Vlad Petreanu, Bromania, Zoso, Cristian China Birta and many more (sorry, names appealing only to my Romanian audience).

And that is because tomorrow I am participating to the new Webstock edition, the most important social media conference in Romania.

The conference speakers are amazing and the organizers are preparing a few surprises, so, if you are interested, go on and check them out on the event website or on their social media.

If you are into social media and live in Romania, you have no excuse not to come and join the event; you can still sign up, or watch the event online on the website.

You can also get involved through voting your own Online Personality of the Year by entering the app here . The winners in this category as well as other categories included in the competition will be announced in the event Gala carried out on the 30th of September at the JW Marriott Hotel in Bucharest. Whoever wants to participate to the Gala can solicit their own free invitation from the organizers, details here..

Webstock is an event organized by Evensys and Vodafone in cooperation with Bitdefender, HP, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Raiffeisen Bank, LG, Staropramen and Siviero Maria.

I will come back with a full account of my experience there, for sure.

Have a happy Thursday. Let me know if any of you will be there tomorrow.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Three Gems from the Web - Every Tuesday (16)

Hello there,

My favorite things to share, whether on the blog or on my social media account are useful things with a twist. I don't encounter them every week, but when I do, I cannot wait to spread the word and shout out "Good job!" to those who have put them there. I have a few previous posts that are by all means useful. You can check them out  here and here if you happen to like this one. And if you do, do not forget to let us know (it is always so fulfilling to get positive feedback) and share it with your own network.

Without further ado, here are this week's gems:

1. BugMeNot   - is an incredibly useful website. What it does is give you access to shared sign in credentials (username/email and passwords) so that you don' give your details to all the websites you want to check out. This is especially useful as websites now monetize their content through selling their email list to advertising companies, so signing up to a free website, as useful as it might be, will fill your inbox in no time. The downside is that not all the passwords do still work, and not all the websites are yet covered. nonetheless, for the big websites you have plenty of options to chose from. To use it, go to the website and type in the website address and get your bug free sign in details.

2. Soon - this is an app I've been using for the last week. First heard of it from Kevin Rose's monthly journal which I highly recommend. What it does is help you mark down the websites, movies, books, podcasts or restaurants you plan on checking out. Nonetheless, it is more than a notebook as it allows you to check what others are planning to check out in a "trending" section organized by category. thus you can watch the movie trailer directly in the app, or even listen to trending podcasts (my favorite section).

3. Instructables - is a website for creative and crafty people that would like to spend some time building their own interesting and twisted DIYs. It allows you to download the instructions or to view them online. It also works as a sharing community, if you log in you can join groups, share your own instructions, publish articles or like and share others'. Don't forget to sign in via BugMeNot (testi88/hans34).

Enjoy our gems and happy Tuesday!

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Three Gems of the Web - Every Tuesday (15)

Hello there,

This week's picks are all about home decor and interior design, so if you aren't into this, there isn't much you could learn from today's post. Nonetheless, if you like redecorating, plan on redecorating or want to spice up your place in the near future, you will love my suggestions. They are all YouTube channels, so plenty of material to go through, but believe me, it won't be a waste of your time, at all. What other beautiful way to spend your free time than watching beautiful and inspiring videos?

Robeson Design channel - this is a YouTube channel for those who are looking for more chic and high end designs. The designer and her team will reveal gorgeous California mansions redecorating, but if you dig through her channel you will find plenty of videos in which she will teach design principles, interior design on a budget and even using software such as SketchUp to design your dream home/room.

MrKate - is a DIY/fashion/lifestyle videoblogger  but she has a million of videos strictly concerning home design. The protagonist, Mr Kate and her husband, filmed a series called "OMG We Bought a House" and another one called "OMG We're Coming Over". I suggest you started with these and then you will get hooked. They have a fresh and eclectic way of designing interior spaces that I am sure you will find very inspiring.

BBC Design Rules - if you haven't seen this, you  are missing out. It's the best and fastest way to learn about interior design in the whole wide world. It is a series of 6 episodes available on YouTube going through the principles of interior design that every home owner should know. The filming is impressing, the information is overwhelmingly abundant and useful, and the watching is easy and entertaining. If you are not convinced by my first two choices, try this first: Space and Planning . It is that good!

I hope you find my suggestions useful, if not today, maybe at some point when you will be owning your dream home. So don't forget to bookmark our blog to easily get back to this post, or give us a like on our Facebook page @NewSocialMediaGeek!

Happy Tuesday!