I discovered the secret to perfectly applying a screen protector on the first try: rubber gloves
— Patrick McMullen (@tinyinstruments) November 20, 2012
(It’s been a few weeks since the last time you heard from me. I hope you didn’t miss our regular Gone Social updates too much–I know I’ve missed them. As a kind of full disclosure to this post / welcome back / explanation for my absence I thought I should preface this article by saying that I recently took a job at Fizziology, and I’ve been very busy trying to learn the way of the road for my new position. They’re a great new company–one I would have covered on DCT even if I hadn’t recently accepted a job there. I think you’ll agree that Fizziology is up to something interesting.)
People want to know what other people think about them, it is an (unfortunately) inherent part of having a consciousness that shares its language with interpersonal communication. Businesses, celebrities, and politicians especially put a lot of value in knowing how people perceive their brands, products, ideas, etc. Imagine having the tools –or rather, a group of analysts– to determine exactly what people think about virtually anything at any given time. That’s what Fizziology offers their clients: real-time social analysis and “business insights”. In their own words:
Our proprietary data collection system pulls from Twitter (with full Twitter Firehose access), Facebook and blogs. We then use trained Social Media Analysts- rather than a keyword algorithm- to determine sentiment, refine true volume counts and provide insights. This allows us to not only triangulate relevant buzz and grade sentiment to a 95% accuracy, but spot trends, threats and opportunities in the social conversation.
The company has been around on the entertainment and Hollywood scene since 2009, tracking public mentions of each of the movies that has come out since then. Four weeks before a film hits theaters, Fizziology’s specially trained analysts begin observing mentions of and conversations about it and grading the public sentiment towards the film. They go a step further to provide details on what is driving the conversation;.Fizziology can tell studios if people like a particular character or moment in a trailer, as well as insights such as if the public feels confused about the premise of an upcoming movie, with time enough for the studios to change marketing strategies before a release.
Fizziology also measures the impact of social media on the movies’ ultimate success. Fizziology matches the statistical data of the social media activity with the earnings of the box office to gain predictive value and insights on how social network buzz can boost or hinder the number of ticket sales. With real people doing real time tracking of social media, the company also provides customers with in-depth reports on how certain events affect the amount, type, and mood of public buzz, such as movie news coming out of comic-con panels and odd scenarios such as when the popularity of the erotic novel 50 shades of Grey boosted opening weekend box office for the film Magic Mike. Whereas conventional box office estimates are still based largely on pre-social-media tracking and predictions, Fizziology can give its customers the upper-hand by adjusting predictions and analysis week to week based on what is happening and what people are saying.
There have been a number of other social media research companies that have sprung up since the late 2000’s, and even some who monitor the entertainment industry like with Fizziology. But what sets Fizziology apart from its competitors are the human analysts who actually read the content on social media, rather than automating computers to look for keywords and pre-assigned “trends.” In college, I took a computational neuroscience course that covered a number of different fields wherein people are creating computer models of brain processes. We talked about how IBM’s Watson was conceptually developed and trained, covered chess-playing computers that could beat grandmasters, and even discussed the recent development of face-detection software (soon Facebook will automatically tag pictures uploaded to the site based on a system that could intelligently recognize and identify each user’s face). We’ve taught our computers human logic and visual orientation, but if there is one thing that I learned from my computational neuroscience course, it was that we are still a long ways out from having computers capable of human-like linguistic understanding.
While scientists have certainly been making breakthroughs in computer linguistics, those breakthroughs hardly translate to realistic artificial intelligence (which would be necessary for a computer or program to “understand” what it was “reading”). Currently, there are neural network models that breakdown words and sentences based on a complex hierarchy of rules, and these have allowed companies like Google to begin to predict what we are searching and finish our sentences. However without the experience of emotion, a computer cannot be fed a list of tweets and be expected to correctly guess the authors’ sentiments behind each. Computers don’t have an always-changing bank of experiences and greater contexts to consider while reading a particular word or phrase; real people understand the nuances and irregularities of conversational language. A person knows the difference between “This movie looks so sick!” and “I can’t believe their making a Human Centipede 2, the whole idea is so sick!” A computer would have a tough time differentiating between the connotations of the word “sick” and accurately identifying the sentiment of the first example as positive and the second example negative.
I know what some of you may be thinking, “so this company pays people to invade my privacy and monitor what I say about movies,” and I can assure you that this is certainly not the case. Instead of spending hours stumbling through blogs and twitter accounts for relevant information, Fizziology uses a search service created by developers to pull public content from Twitter, Facebook, and blogs through API access. Essentially, Fizziology sets up virtual webs to catch mentions of and conversations about the films, actors, brands, and events they’re tracking. The developers work with Twitter and Facebook to ensure an accurate search of publicly-available social content, so for those of you who have followed my Gone Social tutorials on how to setup secure and private Facebook and Twitter accounts, you’re still safe. While many people take security seriously and value their virtual privacy, there are many others who are uninterested in or unaware of how to make their accounts private. If you’ve got a private twitter or a Facebook account that allows only “friends” to read your statuses and comments, Fizziology’s analysts have not and will not be reading your opinions on movies or whatever else they’re after at the time. If you’ve yet to lock down your social media accounts, you may be one of the millions of people contributing to the global conversation being tracked and analyzed by Fizziology. Fizziology is listening to what the public is saying and passing along what they hear to the movie studios, and the studios are actually listening! This is good news. Maybe one day the studios will hear us when we tell them to stop remaking Spider-man every 8 years.
My third installment of Gone Social for DavesComputerTips.com on creating a Private Twitter:
A couple of weeks ago, we learned how to setup a safe and secure Facebook account, and boy does it take a lot. Though as I’ve said before, social networks can be wonderful tools and resources to the educated user. The good news is that Twitter is, on the whole, much safer and more secure than Facebook. Twitter’s privacy settings are much easier, and if you want to use to the service only to follow people who interest you and connect with people you trust, it can be done rather easily. In the image above you can see the small lock next to the twitter handle. That lock indicates that this account is “private” or “secure” and only people who I approve can view my profile or see any of my tweets or interactions. Personally, I don’t use Twitter this way, but I created a new private account so that I could take screenshots for you all. If you are new to Twitter and want to play it safe, or you’re curious as to how you can keep your tweets private, stay tuned. The majority of this post will take readers through the sign-up process with security in mind. The last bit will take a look at the account settings necessary to make your twitter account private.
When you visit twitter.com and start to sign up for a new profile, you’ll quickly be taken to this page. Enter the information you want the account to have. If you are using this account as a personal twitter account (ie, an account that represents you as apposed to a specialty account that only tweets presidential facts or something), you should use your own name. You can change your screen name later, but your Twitter username is set for good. The twitter username (@username) is your identity on the network. Twitter will suggest some different usernames based on the name you enter. So if you’re using your real name for this account, Twitter will give you a list of different variations of your first and last name that are available to claim as usernames. You can also choose a username that has nothing to do with your real identity, such as @pinkbanana or whatever you want.
I do want to mention here that you should uncheck “Tailor Twitter based on my recent website visits.” In general, I don’t like sites or services tracking my web traffic. Although Twitter is much safer and more secure than Facebook, I still wouldn’t want the network tracking what I do on the web. If you do keep this box checked, Twitter will suggest you follow the Twitter accounts of your recent web visits, so if you went to CNN today, Twitter will suggest you follow @cnn. This doesn’t sound that bad, but it’s hard to know exactly what information Twitter can access if this option is left open.
Now Twitter is going to introduce you to the service. From here you can be up and running in less than a minute, as the Twitter Wizard suggests. Or, you can spend hours going through different lists of people to follow. For me, Twitter is all about selectively “following” people, companies, and organizations that I enjoy and find influential. Twitter has become the internet’s “right now’ message board. Whenever something is decided, whenever a band announces a new tour, whenever a candidate is giving a speech, whenever a store is having a new sale, the news usually hits Twitter first, as a tweet. Think of tweets like a public text message. On twitter, you cannot tweet to only one person. Even if you mention someone in your tweet (by including their @name username in your message), all of your followers and their followers can see that tweet. If you want to talk to only one person on twitter, you can user their private message system.
Next Twitter is going to ask you to follow some people. This initial follow list will be full of celebrities, politicians, athletes, and generally famous people. Follow 5 accounts to be taken to the next step where you will learn how to search for accounts to follow.
At this stage, you can either type the name of a person or organization in the search box to find their twitter account. You can also scroll through different lists, and expand each list to see accounts in the category. As you choose to follow people, their most recent tweets will begin to appear on your timeline. Spend as much time as you want finding people to follow. Even if you only follow a few accounts now, you can add to your subscriptions at any time.
This next step in the setup process can be very different depending on your preferences and how you want to use this service. If you want to setup a private Twitter account to connect to your friends, importing your contacts from one of your email services is a quick way to find many people. You’ll be given a choice of following all of your contacts that Twitter finds or selecting each individual you want to follow. If you are worried about giving Twitter access to too much, maybe allow Twitter to pull contacts only from the email service you used when signing up for your account. On the other hand, if you don’t want to use Twitter to connect to your friends, or if you want to search for them later rather than granting contact list permissions to the network, you can certainly choose to skip this step.
Now that you’ve got your account created, it’s time to edit your settings to make your profile and tweets private. Click the person icon at the top of the page to reveal the drop-down menu options. Clicking settings takes you to the page I have up behind the drop-down menu. The left side of the page shows the different settings panes you can access and edit, but we are really only concerned with the Account settings in this case.
As you can see in the image above, I have pointed out the check boxes that are important to privacy concerns. This current configuration is the most secure and private configuration possible for the site. Check what I have checked, and uncheck what I don’t have checked, and your Twitter account will be private and secure. Let’s go through each of these boxes from the top.
“Let others find me by email address” – If you uncheck this box you won’t be associated with your email address on Twitter. People won’t be able to find your account when they try to upload email contact lists, but Twitter accounts made from hacked email accounts will also not be able to find you.
“Add location to my tweets” – When I went through the list of possible threats associated with Social Networking, I mentioned that giving out your physical location online could theoretically jeopardize your safety. If you allow your tweets to have location information, your followers will know where you are at the very moment you send a tweet. Alternatively, your boss will know that you weren’t home sick while you post tweets from the Zoo, the Mall, and the beach. You should definitely leave this box unchecked.
“Tweet media” – this section refers to mature content on the social network. If you don’t mind seeing mild nudity, swear words, or other things you’d find in an r-rated movie, you can check the first box. If you plan on publishing tweets or links to mild nudity, swearing, etc., you should probably check the box indicating that your tweets may contain sensitive content.
“Protect my tweets” – This box is the single most important setting in determining your Twitter account security. This is the box you must check to get a private account with a lock next to your username. Essentially, checking this box means that only your approved followers will be able to see your tweets. As the text below says, if you’ve previously sent unprotected tweets, checking this box may not restrict all of your previous tweets and some may still be publicly available.
“Tailor Twitter based on my recent website visits” – I covered this earlier, but it appears hear as well. If you don’t want Twitter snooping around in your web history and tracking the sites you visit, you should uncheck this box. If you are following along to setup your Twitter account, you already unchecked this box on the first page.
While not necessary in crating a private Twitter account, I thought I might go over some general profile policies that you might consider if you want to be as secure as possible. You’ll notice that you can change your Picture and name at any time. If you decide that you do or do not want to use your real name on your profile and tweets, you can change that whenever you want. For you location, feel free to do as you wish. If your account is private, only people you approve will see this information anyway. Still, it’s better to give your state or city in this field than your neighborhood or address.
If you wan to use twitter as an extension of your online presence or website, you can choose to have it displayed on your profile. Twitter can be a great way to get your name or website out there and to build a fanbase, but if that’s what you’re here to do you shouldn’t be creating a private account. Do what you want here, but if twitter is a place for you to connect to only your friends, it’s probably okay to put a link to your personal blog on your profile
Finally, you’ll see a button to allow you to connect your Twitter and Facebook. If you do this, all of your tweets will automatically post to your Facebook wall. Don’t do this. Please don’t post your tweets to Facebook. Twitter and Facebook are very different, and we use them for very different things. If I care about somebody’s tweets, I’ll follow them on Twitter. If I’m not following one of my Facebook friends on Twitter, it’s because they tweet about things I don’t care about, or they tweet too often, or they auto-post their tweets to Facebook. Further, Facebook is much less secure than Twitter, and cross-posting your tweets will only lessen your privacy and security.
So there you have it: a private and secure Twitter account. That was easy. To get a private Twitter account, it really only means checking one box under your account settings. It’s easy to see how people complain about Facebook’s privacy settings so much after you see how easy they are on Twitter. Still, a privacy-minded person needs to do a couple other things to make sure they are as secure as they want to be on the network. As always, feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email on DCT if you have any questions or concerns. Also, now that you have a twitter account make sure you follow @DavesCompTips for all of your DCT news and giveaways and @tinyinstruments (my personal twitter account) if you want to know what I’m up to.
The following is my latest post for davescomputertips.com, but I think it’s pretty good so I’ll put it up here too:
Unless you’re living in North Korea, it’s more than obvious that social media has taken over the internet. Facebook is predicted to reach 1 billion users by August. Sites you once knew and love are now asking their users to get “social” by interacting with one another and having everybody “follow” each other (looking at you, Springpad). Some websites now are even requiring you to grant the site access to your twitter or facebook accounts before you can even use the site’s services. Web 2.0 is upon us, and like it or not, we all have to share. At least, that is what we are increasingly pressured to do. If you like something you read, you better “like” it on facebook too. Did your friend say something witty on twitter? Well you’d better retweet it. How was that new restaurant you tried last night? Why don’t you type up a review on foursquare and share it on Google+.
Social networking may be ubiquitous now, but not everyone has been given an equal opportunity with it. With much of what happens on the internet, in the media, and during our daily lives influenced by people’s interactions over social networking, it is just understood that we all know and use sites like facebook and twitter. If you were late to the game, or if you’ve held out on signing up for social networking services for one reason or another, you likely feel out of the loop. Even those of us who use social media everyday can at times lose focus on why such sites exist and what we stand to gain from spending so much time there. Believe it or not, there was a time before social media (I have to remind myself of this weekly). We can live and exist and function without it. Still, social networking provides and facilitates opportunities and connections that would have been near impossible 5 years ago. These are just some of the reasons I wanted to write a sort of introduction to social media. I’d like to offer some risks and benefits associated with social networking, because web citizens everywhere can benefit from knowing what it means to store your life online.
Risks of using social networking
The risks of using social media sites can be classified into three main categories: privacy, security, and time. Signing up for and subsequently using social media opens one up for rather unique concerns relating to the privacy of personal information and intellectual property. Further, your physical, personal, and computer security should be considered when using facebook, twitter, and the like. Finally, there are a few temporal concerns brought up when discussing the risks of social networking.
Anything you post online can be read by at least one other person, and this is the root of all privacy concerns. Even if you sign up for a facebook profile, select the strictest privacy controls, and have yet to gain a single “friend” on the network, someone can read your first post. Maybe it’s a Facebook technician, or maybe it’s a consumer researcher, but anything posted online can legally be seen or read by at least a couple people. So remember: if you don’t want something going public, don’t put it online. Don’t even privately share it with one person. Some sites like Google+ make it easy to selectively share posts and content with certain groups of people, so you can show your friends stuff that you don’t show your employer. Still, lots can happen that would allow your content to make it to the eyes of the very person you were hoping would never see it. As long as you keep this in mind, you’ll be just fine sharing everything you’re proud of.
Accessing and customizing your privacy settings for any given site can be difficult and confusing, and often people are unaware of who can view what on their profiles. Many problems with social network privacy could be resolved if users were made aware of their security settings from the get go. Sure facebook has the ability to customize exactly who can see what on your page, and who can make comments on things, and who can find your page and send you messages, but each of those has to be setup by the user. Next week I’ll publish a step-by-step guide on how to setup your security settings on facebook so that you have control over the content you post and who can access your site. In that post, you’ll see just how involved the privacy settings can be. Yet, even if you’ve got your profile’s privacy set exactly the way you want it, privacy settings require regular attention and tweaks. Because social networking, by definition, is on the cutting edge of online interactions, the sites are making changes constantly. With facebook especially, things are changing almost weekly. Some changes are bigger than others, and big changes often affect privacy settings. So, to truly have a handle on one’s social media privacy settings, he or she must repeatedly check his or her settings and make adjustments. I know what you’re thinking: sounds like a lot of time and effort. Honestly, it kind of is.
Keeping your identity, information, and intellectual property safe and private is always a primary security concern when using social networks. We all know how much of an issue identity theft is becoming, and the widespread use of social media only contributes further. If your facebook account is not private, anyone can access it, download your photos, copy your personal information, and even steal your posts. Thieves often make false facebook profiles from the information that they steal from other people’s legitimate profiles. While not everyone is out to steal identities and photographs for malicious intent, some people do look to steal other people’s work. If you post something funny, original, interesting, etc. it runs the risk of being hijacked. Your newest poem about summer may sound beautiful, and you may be proud of it, but if you leave you accounts open to the public, there is nothing stopping some lazy high school student from plagiarizing your work and turning it in as their own. Privacy is a big concern on the internet in general, and an even bigger one on social networks. I’m not saying this to scare you, but I’d rather not have to say I told you so. No matter your experience with social media, you need to be aware of the potential privacy risks, and the ways to protect yourself. Be smart and you won’t be a victim.
Unscrupulous individuals like to target the new and naïve, especially on social networks. Simply by getting a late start, signing up for a brand new facebook or twitter profile today puts one at slightly higher risk than those who opened their accounts two years ago. If you’re new to the service, hackers and thieves may assume you are uninformed on safety and privacy risks and unaware on how to combat them. It doesn’t have to be this way. These opportunists come in many forms: hackers who use brute force to get access to your account and personal information, spammers who hope to take over your legitimate profile to gain access to your address book, and seemingly helpful and friendly individuals who ask you seemingly innocuous questions in order get close enough to you to eventually guess you password reset questions. The point is, you have to be weary of suspicious individuals. Personally, I don’t accept facebook friend requests from people that I have not talked to, in person, in the last two years (with obvious exceptions for distant loved ones). This just keeps me a little better protected from those who wish to access and use my accounts or information for whatever reason. Once a hacker gets access to one of your accounts, it is just a mater of time before they gain entrance into your other accounts, your banks, your computer, etc. With Web 2.0 running all around and linking up our presence in various places across the web, letting the bad guys have access to your username and password on one single site can be enough for them to launch a full-out movie-script heist of your identity.
In addition to jeopardizing your online and computer safety, having your social network security compromised can also compromise your physical safety. Because our social profiles can contain personal information such as addresses and phone numbers, an online identity theft can lead to an actual threat of your physical wellbeing. Those malicious individuals we keep talking about can get your address and come to your house to steal items, money, identifying information, or worse. Even if you don’t make your address or phone number available, criminals in your city could read your posts or look through your pictures to get context clues as to where you are located, what you do, and what you have. I’m not at all saying this is common or likely, but the technology is certainly there. Again, I don’t want to scare you off from using social networks, but I want everyone to understand the very real risks associated with privacy and security. Be smart and be safe and you won’t get hacked (or hacked up into pieces).
Though not as obvious as threats to privacy and security, using social networks can also lead to temporal issues. Social networks are often described as addictive. Many people, young and old, spend much more time interacting with people online everyday than they do interacting face-to-face in an entire week. It’s easy. It’s instant. It’s fun. Even people who aren’t addicted to facebook can likely use it too much, or at the wrong times. Jobs, schools, internet cafes, etc: these are just some of the places that have begun banning or blocking facebook and other social networking sites. Social networking is fun, and likely a lot more fun than your job, or your professor, or your dentist. For this reason, people are being asked (and sometimes forced) to stay off the sites when they should be doing other things anyway. I’m sure some of you are so put of by the idea of social networking at this point that you couldn’t imagine the sites being addictive, but some doctors and psychologists have even started acknowledging the intense habit-forming nature that facebook can have in some users. Are you going to get hopelessly and helplessly addicted to facebook or twitter? No, probably not. But it can happen, it has happened, and I don’t want it to happen to you.
In order to have a full user experience, social networking requires participation and upkeep. This is often how the unhealthy obsessions begin. To get more out of facebook or twitter, you have to put more time and energy into it. You have to add more pictures. You have to post more tweets. You have to follow and friend more people. You have to start and continue interactions. All of these things take time. It’s a vicious cycle: the more time you spend on a social network, the more fun and rewarding it becomes, thus making you want to invest even more time. My advice here is kind of two-fold: if you’re bored with your facebook, do more. However if you find yourself spending too much time there already, maybe start setting some limits to the amounts of time, comments, pictures, posts, or whatever you contribute per day.
Benefits of using social networking
Still here? Good that means I haven’t scared you away yet. That is a pretty daunting list of risks associated with social networking, but that doesn’t stop me and millions of others form using several of the sites daily. Social networking has revolutionized the way we connect to people, information, and our surroundings. In fact, it is these connections that comprise the foundation of the benefits associated with using social networks: connecting with people, connecting with news and events, and the ability to share (and the nature of the sharing itself).
Connecting with people
Social networking facilitates communication between people in new and innovative ways, and overcomes previously restrictive barriers of location, time, and “losing touch”. The entire purpose for building social networks was centered on connecting people. You can connect to new people you’ve never met, your best friends, long lost high school sweet hearts, family, influential celebrities, athletes and politicians, etc. Before facebook, we were all reportedly 6 friends-of-friends away from knowing Kevin Bacon. In the last 12 months, estimates say that online, we are each only separated by 4 degrees: we’ve cut out two middlemen. In other words, you’re probably pretty close to getting a friend request from Kevin Bacon as you read this. It doesn’t matter where you live, what time zone you’re in, or what language you speak. As long as you have internet access (and social networking sites aren’t blocked where you are) you have the ability and infrastructure to be connected to nearly a billion people. You can even connect to multiple people at once. Facebook and Google+ both tout features that allow you to instant message and video chat with a group of people simultaneously. We are all closer (and also further apart, strangely enough) because of the advent of facebook.
Connecting with news and events
In addition to facilitating connections between people, social networks have made connecting with news and events easier, quicker, and more efficient. Today, news stories hit facebook and twitter minutes–sometimes even hours–before they reach news channel websites or papers. That’s logical: whenever something happens to anyone, the reporters and journalists have to be told about it, they don’t possess Spidey-sense. The people that the event is happening to or with know about it at the time, and many of them have phones, tablets, and laptops capable of sharing the event as it happens. Major news stations now even comb through twitter feeds or even ask twitter users to contribute to developing stories. When major marches and arrests happened in New York during the Occupy protests, coverage came largely from the activists and observers taking part in the events. CNN and Fox were relying on social networking for their reporting, as many of the images and videos of Occupy protests were from shaky smartphone cameras. Social networking doesn’t mean news stations can work less: on the contrary they now have many more sources to check and track. Further, social media provides new opportunities for news sites to share their stories with readers. On facebook, twitter, and google+, users can subscribe to their favorite news sources in order to be provided with breaking news and stories as soon as they’re released. In general, social networks allow you to be up to date and in the know. Event planning has also gotten a lot easier due to facebook. It’s super easy for anyone to create an event on facebook, invite people to it, and get real-time feedback on who plans to attend and what the guests are saying about the event. Many of the events that I went to in college I wouldn’t even have known about were it not for social networks. In my opinion, the biggest advantage of using social networking for event planning is the ability for feedback before, during, and after the event. When Indianapolis hosted the Super Bowl this past February, staff took to facebook and twitter to answer any and all questions associated with the event. When guests were lost downtown and wanted directions to a certain tent or attraction, they could ask for what they need on social media and receive an answer almost instantly. In this case online social media actually helped to enhance the event as it was taking place.
The sharing paradigm
Sharing on social networks has changed the way we create and access content on the web. Facebook is the dominant social network simply (arguably) because it’s the place where users share the most. While Google+ has been busy adding hundreds of millions of users, it is still considered a digital ghost town because of the lack of content on the network (when compared to facebook). Facebook users share more pictures, comments, statuses, videos, links, stories, etc. than users on any other website. Anyone can share anything they create or like. This has changed the types of information available online. On today’s internet, being popular or highly read means having an active social presence. There is so much value placed on social sharing and interacting that sites like Klout have popped up simply for the purpose of ranking ones social impact, that is, the number and kinds of responses that other leave on things that you share. if you want to make a difference in the online social world, people have to like what you share. This means that content creators are now looking to create information that people like to share on social networks.’”Internet trends” change on a whim, and social networking is
usually always the driving cause. The things we create and the things we like have to be shared to become popular, or go viral. The things we see and things we like we first shared by others. It’s always sharing sharing sharing…. Whoever knew kindergarten would come back to bite us like that.
You did it. you made it through my pros and cons list. I realize that my list of risks is a lot longer than my list of benefits, but that’s because I wanted to try and give you as many of the risks as I could–so that you couldn’t come back at me with something bad that happened to you. We should all be prepared and aware of the threats that loom on social media sites. Though truly, the benefits do greatly outweigh the risks for most of us. The beauty of social networks is that we can each make them what we want. We can get as involved as possible or stay on the surface level and it will be enjoyable either way. Everyone will have their own benefits when using sites like facebook and twitter. I’m not trying to convince you to sign up for facebook or twitter if you haven’t yet. If you already have one or the other, hopefully you were reminded or made aware of what can happen and what you can gain. Okay, maybe I am trying to convince you to sign up for facebook, but not if you really have a good reason not to. I won’t hold it against you. (You probably do have a good reason not to, don’t you.) I just want everyone to have an equal chance with it. Obviously the scammers already know a thing or two, and we should too.
If you have any comments or questions about what I’ve said, here, feel free to leave them in the comments below. I’d love to continue the conversation. And stay tuned for a follow-up article on how to setup and maintain facebook privacy settings. If you have any other social networking related comments or questions, email me at email@example.com, post a question in the DCT forums, or better yet, contact us directly in facebook or twitter (yes, those are links to our social sites!).
So you’ve totally got this really awesome, super-new idea that no one has ever had before: sweet. And now you want to share it with everyone on all of your sites and networks: totally. Tweet it. Facebook it. Press it into a word. Drop it into a box. Create a Craiglist post out of it to see if anyone else around you is into that, and if they’d be willing to join you. Great job! You’ve just spent an hour and a half spreading the cat picture you took. You could have created a whole cat album in that time. You could have had time to teach your cat to take its own pictures. The point is, we spend a lot of time posting and updating multiple web services with identical content, just so our nerdcore friend on Google+ who refuse to reactivate his Facebook account can see that we beat his high score in Call of Duty. It’s superfluous. It’s wasteful. It needs to stop. That’s what ifttt is for. Ifttt (pronounced like “lift” without an “l”) stands for “if this then that”, a classic illustrative phrase in logic discussions, and is designed to simplify your digital life and allow for easy cross-posting of content to lots of different sites. I think this is going to be a big one.
My experience with ifttt started not long after Instagram came to Android. While the iOS and Android iterations for the popular photo sharing app are very similar, the Android version lacks some of the sharing options you’ll find in iOS: namely, Flickr. I was searching everywhere for a reliable method of auto-posting from my Instagram account to my WordPress.com blog. Since Instagram had only been on Android for about a week, most of the google results just told me to auto-post to Flickr, which could post to free WordPress blogs. That wasn’t an option for me. Other forum thread offered advice about posting to WordPress via email from a smartphone. That’s great and all,, but it still isn’t auto-posting. Then I found the answer (and I wish I could remember where I found that answer because I would like to thank that person and give them credit). If you’re problem is getting your posts from one service to the other, then ifttt is your answer. See what I did there?
Ifttt couldn’t be simpler. The first time you visit the site, you’ll be prompted to sign up (obviously) and link the accounts you hope to use. Anyone who uses a social network should be familiar with this by now. For some sites like WordPress and Tumblr, you’ll have to provide a url, username, and password for the service to connect to ifttt. Other sites, like twitter, just require you to grant permissions from a twitter pop-out window. It’s super easy and you can link all of your necessary accounts while creating your tasks.
This is what you’ll see every time you want to create a new auto-post task. Click on ‘this” and a drop-down will give you all of the “channel” options for your trigger. The trigger is what sets of the specified action, or task. For example, my trigger is Instagram, and whenever a new image is added to my account there, it will be auto-posted to WordPress and Tumblr including its title, description, and any tags I preset. There are more trigger options than the ones you see above, I just snapped a pic of a few so you can get the idea. Next, you’ll specify your action, or what you want to happen after ifttt detects an update on your specified trigger site. For each different trigger and action, you can customize steps based on the selected web service’s functionality. In other words, ifttt knows how the blog sites work, they know how the social networks work, and they include options to allow for your content to make it to your sites in exactly the format you want.
The other major feature of ifttt is designed around the site’s built-in social component. If you come up with a good task that works for you, you can share it as a general recipe to other ifttt users. You caan also browse through helpful recipes created by other users. A recipe is like a pre-built task, where all you have to do is plug in the information to your associated accounts, and the service is setup without you doing any of the (admittedly very easy) dirty work. In the picture above, you can see some of the more popular recipes. Some of these looks great: automatically follow someone back on twitter, save all of your instagram photos to your dropbox, free mp3 notifcations, etc. if any of these strike your fancy, just sign up for an ifttt account and get chugging.
Stop wasting so much time copy and pasting your life. If you’ve created an awesome post somewhere, don’t waste precious creative time posting and reposting and linking to it from different sites. Sign up for ifttt and get your digital life in order. Use the time you save to teach your cat new tricks. Or better yet, teach your cat how to program new ifttt tasks for you: it’s (almost) that easy!
I found a great little site/web app this morning that really changed the way my day is going. Over the course of about 90 seconds, this demonstration explains how we’re all leading high-strung, over-stretched social lives on these internet. Portlandia has a great sketch, “Technology Loop,” on exactly this problem.
While our rapid rate of interconnectedness is unlikely to slow anytime in the foreseeable future–save catastrophic, systemic collapse–taking little breaks from it all can really help keep us sane, level-headed, and free. The quiet place is a self-described “relaxation exercise” that runs from right in your browser. If you navigate to their page, you’ll notice that you’re only a space-bar click away from 90 seconds of serenity. The site tells you to full-screen your browser, turn up the volume, and refrain from using your phone (that’s kind of the point). Then, soothing music and gentle words help you to relax and break your digital ties, if only for a moment. In the first part, the exercise explains the frivolity in incessantly patrolling facebook and twitter to stay up-to-date and in-the-know. Toward the end, it asks you to sit and do nothing (iknowrite?) for 30 seconds. Truly, this whole thing is a wonderful lesson in guided relaxation/concentration. A lot of what you see and hear at the quiet place are almost textbook examples of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques for relaxation and de-stressing. So bookmark the quiet place, and return to it when you need a break from work, others, or even yourself.