Insta-ntly Persuaded

Well, add more account I have to maintain. For now anyways.

This year has been the year where people keep asking me “When are you going to get Instagram?” Haunted, I might as well do it and give it a shot. Then if anyone starts copying my content, I might just delete it and let it be.

I’ve held off getting an account because I have an invested interested in my talents. I like my work but I don’t want to work in an contractual confines that would stop me from developing. In this case I would have create photos on a smaller scale, closer to cell phone screen size when I have over 3000 pixels to work with. On a screen like an iPhone, details aren’t distinct and broad shapes and colours are the only thing that captivates. Until 500px which I’ve done well for myself, I liked to create confines to challenge. An example is choosing 7 photos a week for the 500px website. It doesn’t feel like it’s a popularity contest where the best looking or the best trend wins the day. Thus why I feel Snapchat and Instagram feel more like social media platforms than a pedestal to put my work out there. Everything is temporary unless it’s exhilarating to the mass body. For me, it’s no different than Twitter besides being a visually centred social media platform.

Also it’s an entirely mobile platform! As a camera user, I can’t do anything about that besides taking photos of photos. Of course, there’s a round about way in Chrome to use it on PC. However I can’t upload from my PC but I can view. Really discourages anyone but a cellphone to use a platform like that.

Artistically when you want to make money, you have to sell something about you to really open it up to the world. This isn’t something I approve but I am trying to build my amateur skill to a professional level.

Even if putting @nawkcire on Instagram and saying it’s moving forward.

 

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Google Map Reviews

It’s been awhile that I signed up as a Google Guide, a service that allows you to participate in editing and reviewing locations on Google Maps. Recently (though I don’t want to brag) I reached by 100th review and I’ve seen some good and bad reviews.

Full disclosure of how I rate and review, Google uses a 5 star system. With it, I base all ratings on the following:

  1. Does the place physically exist? Kind of mandatory for most of the places I’ve been.
  2. How’s the customer service? How was my personal experience?
  3. How was the services and products offered? Were they everything I expected?
  4. How does the physical location look? Optionally, how’s the washrooms?

I don’t usually offer a 5 star rating which means from me, 4 stars is the most. However 5 stars just indicates I’ve had an exemplary time and experience. Meaning 2 through 4 were exceptionally greater than the places I’ve been. This is fairly hard since a lot of restaurants and shops provide the same amount of service and usually meets a pseudo-standard which seems professional but accommodating.

In terms of a written review, it follows a personal standard. First beginning with a preamble about the general location, nothing bias here. Then I move on to atmosphere of the place, products and services, then customer service. Along with it, I put down anything I’ve observed to be interesting to me and the last paragraph is for if I want to recommend this place or if I would visit again.

It’s likely not the best way to be labelled as a useful review however I’ve seen some really ridiculous reviews on there with a bunch of users saying they found it useful. On Steam it’s the same thing but that’s another story. Usually these reviews have no content besides from a star rating and the phrase “not bad”, “great”, or “would visit again”. If I was a stranger, I would like to know why people enjoy this place and something to really be convinced on going. The idea of a review is not to just let people know what’s going on here but to provide people a reason to go there or should not even bother. I know some people can be extremely critical (some of my reviews sound like that as well) but the idea is to be honest to provide feedback to a place while giving something a potential customer needs to go there.

Regardless I found a lot of places over Google Maps because reviewers have provided some good feedback. Then there are places with those 2 word reviews that turn me away because I don’t feel like going there. With a lot of users, I think Google should extend this Guide program to products. Perhaps a joint product review with Amazon but the Guide program does offer a somewhat credible system for folks.

Four out of five, will review again.

Followers

I was really compelled with one of the recent episodes of The X-Files; I’m still surprised this show is back on TV and feels like it was never gone.

After looking on Wikipedia to decode the episode title, “Followers”. The episode is a shocking hour of how technology and the drive for automation changes the social dynamic. The first and last scene does mirror they two view points people are growing in this day in age.

I grew up in the 90’s as a child and it was an interesting time compared to now. I too fight between balancing using my phone and enjoying what most people would consider as analog. I’ve noticed the splitting phenomenon in a lot of people. People who want to engage in a slab of silicon and glass rather than see the beauty of the surrounding reality. In the first world, we have so much to give but we give in all the wrong ways. We get bored and seek the shortest of thrills and the quickest of problems. We have in many ways devalued hindsight and creativity to forge a better future.

Surely we live in an age where we entrust strangers, but isn’t technology more capable to be as strange? We live in likely the last era before computer learning evolves into sentience. As the show asks, what are we really teaching if we all teach our computer about our society. Giving it borderless freedom equal to ours, what will this computer teach us? I know the answer but I’m afraid of how it would shape our future.

For me, I will do my best to minimize what I can do for a smart phone and rely on a vetted human being. I don’t preach on destroying technology but I do embrace the human interaction and community. However I do think people should be growing to interacting face-to-face than face-to-Facetime.

The world shrinks as computers grow in our world, but what else shrinks is our ability to see others as people as well.

Here You Are Again

Odd thing that happened on my Facebook recently.

Occasionally, I like to cull my private online profiles. Ridding people I’ve fallen out of or haven’t seen in a long time. Sometimes they’ll never add me back, which I’m totally okay with and I’ve been on the receiving end of a social media culling a few times. I can totally understand however this one time when I lost someone physically and they disappeared off my friends list, it felt terrible.

Setting: recently, I accidentally set a status update to public and they liked it back. Honestly, a lot of emotion flooded back when I was first notified. I do think of them fondly however knowing they still bookmarked me is interesting. When I first realized, I didn’t know how to react. I wanted to let them know I’m alright but open to talk. The best I could think I could do is just write another status update.

This is a first for me and I’m not quite sure if I did the right thing. As the shy me, I would say I handled it well.

What do you guys think?

Formality v. Functionality–Big Twitter apps

[Starts 3 paragraphs in for those who want my review, thought you liked a good story…]

It’s not a surprised I use Twitter more often now to promote my blog and YouTube channel. I’m usually on there to just find something to read or have something short to get off my chest rather than posting it on my blog with under 140 characters. For a awhile when I started my blog, I wanted to be able to spread my message out there in the simplest form. Mainstream or some way to broadcast to the world, “I wrote something, might be nice to give it a read.” I started using Twitter as a media prerequisite to learn about the world and the culture I live in, over time the account went into disuse until I started my blog. First impressions, Twitter wasn’t the best place for a 19 year old. I was on it because my teacher wanted me to be on it so classroom censorship was a tough deal breaker when you have something to say but your account is restricted for media studies only. The turn around when I started this blog a few years ago a way to document my thoughts and activities. As I began to grew a skin around blogging and microblogging, I decided to use an application to be a hub for all my Twitter needs. At the time, I just read up on applications and reviews; most of it in jargon. So rather than just reading a review for the pick, I just observed what everyone was using. Most of the time, it was TweetDeck and HootSuite.

tweekdeck

For the past couple years, I’ve used TweetDeck on the basis of popularity. It was most commonly used when I was lurking at hashtag threads. When I first got it on Chrome, the interface was simple to master. One simple login screen later, the application went to work by sending me feeds from my own Twitter. Soon after, found the Search button to find other hastags to follow and after that was able to organize to what I wanted to see and not see certain posts. But that’s just one camp out of many to simplify the experience.

The other large one I seen and heard about was HootSuite. Only largely came to me from large app review sites and users from organizations. I was really hesitant at first to ever try it. Today, let hesitation be damned! Setting into a new application isn’t always easy if you’re like me, why move on to something else when one works perfectly? After creating an account through HootSuite, I was greeted with a stark dashboard similar to the TweetDeck app. Along with an approximate sidebar for your options. So how do they fare against each other?

hotsuite

After spending a few hours on HootSuite, the similarities begin to fade away. Both platforms offer multi-account support, so you can monitor each Twitter profile simultaneously. Each can create tabs based on criteria such as retweets, favourites, and hashtags you wanted pinned as a tab for easy reference. TweetDeck and HootSuite provide a simplified interface to ensure ease of use, so you know where to go and how to do certain Twitter-y tasks. Unfortunately this is where TweetDeck ends it’s list of goodies.

HootSuite offers more than just connectivity to Twitter. It provides a way to be connected to other blogging and social media websites like LinkedIn, WordPress, Facebook and mixi (Hell if I know what is mixi). Along with account aggregation, it has an array of enterprising features such Assignments to help business consolidate their media efforts. As a Pro and Enterprise user, you have access to team organizations to help with assignments. With organization, you would want to see the team’s or your brand’s performance in media; so they have analytics to help form a report on your media involvement through all your accounts or just particulars. Along with it’s organizational faire; it boosts a range of in-app applications such as a YouTube app to view and share through your HootSuite, which most apps are trying to advertise the same view and share feature if not trying to enhance the in-app experience.

As a Personal user, I found the program fairly restrictive. Most of the features your listed as Pro feature which required a $8.99 (assuming US currency) per month payment for use. The only things I can really necessarily do is add apps within an app and just view counters of my tweets and followings with analytics. As a personal user, the only redeeming quality is a list of followers and a list of people I followed; which is easily accessible but really unnecessary at times. Like this feature already available on TweetDeck and on Twitter itself, it’s analytics is par if not worst to the online solution already provided by Twitter. I’m a free user on both, but getting additional data from Twitter for free. Though if I was a business, I would agree HootSuite might contain some insight through it’s own analytics but would not necessarily change my behaviour within social media. The auto-scheduler is a nifty touch if you want to send out tweets at a particular time. However this feature is best removed to prevent people with spam accounts from filling threads with their wares. Unlike Tweetdeck, it feels more geared towards businesses than it is for individual users. With it’s suite of analytics and in-depth monitoring, it’s a improbable choice for a single user like me.

What I found interesting is the load times and the refresh rates. Upon loading up each application, I found TweetDeck to be much faster. Though if you have a speedy connection, you won’t feel it. As a person who uploads video to YouTube, it’s noticeable. I can only speculate what is going behind the scenes, but this slowdown makes it very regrettable since it feels not optimized for lower connection speeds. On HootSuite, you can set refresh rates to as close to 2 minutes for each tab within the application. On TweetDeck, you can set it to almost real time in a margin of a few seconds if you have a slow connection. While TweetDeck can update in the background, Hootsuite seems to stop updating when you’re not in the Chrome browser tab. Along with update angst, the way it personally handles hashtags does make it easier to read since it gives you a brief amount of time before the dashboard tab refreshes. Good thing if you are watching a keyword or tag with a lot of frequent users.

Each application has features gear towards a niche user. Enterprising and business prefer to see things by the numbers while your average Jane and Joe want to just post and share. As a personal user with very little social outreach, it would be preferable to stick with TweetDeck by Twitter for it’s simplicity. Simple doesn’t always mean better, simple means in this case I get what I need and I don’t really need it to be any better. If I was a social media specialist or a community manager for a large organization with multiple accounts, I would say HootSuite is the way to go to provide the means of easy consolidation; but would not jump on board too quickly on analytics.

Overall experience for both, restrictive on HootSuite where features are blocked and load times are slower when connection is slow. However it does provide a sense of additional control through analytics and aggregation. Where are TweetDeck is simplistic with little to no load times. However remains to be seen if it can handle business.

Don’t believe me? Give them a try on Chrome:

TweetDeck

HootSuite

Until next time, follow me on Twitter?

Grid Style Ciphers And Such Security…

Recently I read a WordPress blog about hacked email woes. I think I should share my experiences with it and some techniques to prevent it. After the first time when you feel your privacy is violated, you usually would want to find the solutions that would solve it. Usually, we take the easy routes to get it done. Easy routes are cheap and less time consuming, however they’re probably quick solutions to probably a few small small problems in your security.

Lets start with account security, this is pretty much anything requiring a user name and password. Though not sure if everyone does this, but it seems those that assume the same username to all their accounts fairly much allows a bit of consistency with password insecurities. Especially if it’s those people who have your user name across multiple service, they can just easily search up the username and if they crack the one password for that; they’ll get them all. If you are those kind of people who keep usernames the same and keep shuffling the password, that’s a good plan. However do note it is recommended to keep a different password for each account; from my point of view in out interconnected world, this might be hard. Consider we all own probably 2 or more email address as well as miscellaneous services like online banking, online games, and various accounts requiring an account and password; this approach would require a minimum 20 password you have to remember by heart. Eidetic memory would be the only ability you would need for this, however most of us don’t really remember those passwords that well and usually try to brute force their way onto their account by cycling through passwords or just resetting the password which would defeat the purpose of having the password in the first place. To reduce the amount of passwords to use or even cycle through, I suggest prioritizing your accounts into categories.

Getting Started

First you are going to need to think about all the possible passwords you can create. Don’t pen them or type them out; use your mind and figure out which ones are going to work out. To find out which one’s are going to work out, you have to know what kind of restrictions you have on your password from the service you are going to use. Sometimes the service would want you to have numbers and letters while some would go the distance and ask for numbers and letters with one letter capitalized. Most of the time, numbers and letters will do fine and dandy. Now in your head, find things you know that people won’t know. These could be important dates, lucky numbers, names of pets, and certain random facts you know of yourself that others don’t know or would not be able to guess. From this stack of keywords and numbers, we have the most secure passwords; lets call these Alpha Phrases for now.

Now think of things people might know in person only; sports teams, political and religious affiliations, inside jokes, names of those people and so on. The bulk here will be our Beta Phrases.

Optionally, think of common words and numbers you could use in a pinch. These could reference to games, movies, books, dirty jokes, et cetera. This will be our Pool. These should be easily recalled at anytime but would make the least secure passwords like “asdf”, “root”, “admin”, “1234”, and “password”. These phrases suck when combining with themselves but would make a minimal password when combined with a Alpha or Beta Phrase.

Priority Tier System

This is how I normally put my things together online to keep it from getting compromised. This system varies depending on people’s influence and usage.

A priority based system would require is pre-planning in terms of how you will classify your accounts. Basis of this blog, I’ll demonstrate with a 3 tier linear system. Linear because each priority does not interact with the one succeeding or preceding itself. However if you are part of a business or a person who has grey zones, read the non-linear area of this section.

The highest priority should be assigned to accounts that will contain real life consequences in the event that your account is breached. Under this priority I would recommend using a combination of two or more Alpha Phrases to ensure security. This should make it impossible for someone to break into the account and would protect your assets like a bank account or a business email. Each account here should have it’s own unique password.

One down is moderate, passwords should be quick accessible but hard to guess. So the bulk of these passwords would be Beta Phrases, you can sneak in a bit of the Pool in there if you want it. In my opinion, this contains personal and social media. This is the area where you wouldn’t mind an accidental breach or doesn’t have a physical loss, don’t cry over spilt milk and all that. You can be a bit more lenient in using a password twice, try and not overdo it since people might find out.

Low priority are the accounts that will get lost so the passwords won’t make a difference since it’s kind of just something you made to check out the service. This is things like IRC and forum accounts unless you are a forum moderator or an administrative figure. Which case, these are things may be consider moderate or high depending on popularity of the service you are working with. As a normal user, likely you will only need to mix a couple Pool phrases together. The accounts listed here are the low of the low so you can literally have one password for all the accounts.

Now in life, nothing fits into boxes the right way so for those that aren’t too sure what is what I’ll help you how with exceptions and rules to help you through in sorting accounts and assigning passwords. If your account links to other accounts, that linking account must be secured higher than the other accounts. So lets say you have an personal email to forward email, that forwarding email address’ password MUST NOT be used again since it’s directing information to other emails. Same goes for gaming accounts where you’ve collected ultra-rare gear in and social media if you are a social butterfly. So they’re like semi-high priority but not really when you don’t want to use it anymore.

The only thing you would have to worry about in this system is any passwords that are shared since if one gets compromised, then it’s likely the other would get hit pretty hard. Also if you don’t have a diverse pass phrase pool since someone could can just guess it. Any case, change you password after you think one of them is compromised and try and avoid using the same password.

Gridlock

Another approach is to construct a cipher, a method to conceal your written work. Depending on what you use as a cipher it can be super easy or super hard. You can use a grid of 260 squares arranged in a 26 x 10 grid and fill each grid with a random character from A to Z and 0 to 9. Based on a phrase or a number, this grid should hash out a sequence that should consist of numbers and letters. You can use it like a map. First you establish a set of rules. easiest one off the top of my head is a mnemonic like “I love those adorable puppies.” So “I” has one letter, so look in the square in I1. “Love”, four starting with “L”; L4. And so one until you have a sequence from the phrase. Usually online services require a minimum of 8 characters so your phrase should be at minimum 8 words long.

Simpler cipher is to get yourself a letter, like a rejection letter from a college or university. Pick a number, then just go through the letter puling out a word or number that happens to fall upon every n times, where n is your count number. You can substitute it with letters so you can take single characters in words. It might take longer than pulling words but as long as you remember the count and keep the correspondence, you can always refer back to it. It’s antiquated but as long as it’s difficult, password’s safe.

Take it to the cleaners

Not too sure what it’s called but it just wipes temporary data off your computer. I personally use CCleaner by Piriform, it deletes all the temporary history from all my browsers and for a bit of flavour I have it clean out my Start menu and certain programs that need to be deleted. Even without programs, you can delete it too but it would be quite hard to know what’s junk. The point to it is to get rid of anything weird that’s inside a file that’s either sending or receiving information that you don’t want sent, such as what you’re typing in as a password. This is only a temporary measure but it’s a start of a two prong attack to rid your computer. Having some anti-virus protection helps a lot if it program has an active scan feature to let it check incoming data for malicious material like a worm or something. When I get nervous, I usually use CCleaner then run a full scan followed by another run with CCleaner to make sure it’s all cleaned up. Probably the first one isn’t necessary but it never hurts to try.

Nuke it like North Korea (too soon?)

If you have exhausted all methods into removing malware off your computer, there is a last resort but sometimes comes at a heavy price. Reformatting a hard drive would be a hard thing to do considering the size and collection of stuff you’ve accumulated. Best you can do is save as much as you can before you wipe the hard drive clean and start over. Usually all operating systems now have some feature to allow you to wipe the hard drive. I have two methods of wiping my computer if I had to, CCleaner has a feature to allow a full hard drive wipe and I have my two operating system boot discs. Be careful when you do this and change your BIOS to allow boot up from a CD or USB, whichever medium you keep your boot disc on. This should be a the last course of action, but it’s necessary if you want a virus free computer.

At Day’s End…

After all this stuff, online systems are vulnerable to attack. Certain companies are good at keeping up with security holes, some not so good. I know for a fact my Hotmail account was compromised server side since before they fixed it, my Junk folder would always contain 100 messages every day about random products and services I don’t want to know about. Sometimes no matter how hard you make those accounts hard to break into, sometimes it’s just something out of your control and you have to accept the fact that the service you trust can be so incompetent. In which case, it’s time to find a new service to replace it.

Stay safe and stay secured, everyone. See you next time!

Ever since Facebook – My fundemental principles of online interaction

When it comes to the internet, I tend to do my best to put something there. for anyone I want to see or know. Matter of speaking I try and sort my thought trash for the internet to pick up; making you guys garbage pickers, not a bad thing in my opinion. Sometimes there may be so good things in the trash. May have little or no purpose for the previous owner or pass on something inferior, but it may have little or much use for someone else. Taking away the waste disposal analogy, I am talking about social media.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube; these are much close to a junkyard than you think. We consume it, we don’t necessarily create it. Once something is good, it goes viral were everyone would take it in. Much I see are unique, then the internet starts dumping onparodies and iterations. In many ways like this is happening millions times per day. One status update or one blurb, I don’t really care about a blow by blow realtime autobiography. Of course interesting article links is helpful, but if it seems people would follow without formulating an opinion or realize the intentions that come with posting a thing. I know you can say “oh this is a good\bad thing, must spread this to everyone.” Kudos for raising awareness, but your credibility to what is serious is waning if you are the one that has Facebook tracking every place you go or tweet “had a fun time at the club” then just seconds later, “just puked…awesome!” I would check it out if it fancies my attention, but usually it’s quite unappealing. I know the large part of social media is to have a conversation and connect to others with similar interests. Down to only that meaning, I would endorse social media. I never really did even the first time I got myspace. In many ways, a real old school conversation usually more warming than reading from a website. Human relationships are more complex and even more for those that are like me. It is more than taking ownership of an account or just being connected online with the only face to face was the introduction. That’s no friend or follower, that’s just some person or an aquiantance at best. Personally I do maintain a Facebook account, but I do keep it private since I respect the others and keep myself distant from strangers.

Companies now filter their applicants using social media to ensure a productive work space. So if you really need to look professional. too online. Doesn’t really mean pictures of dress shirts and ties. Simply put, display the positive qualities in photos and posts. Also do what is possible to incorporate them into your life. Kind of annoying some people prying you to make sure you’re job worthy but I guess whatever their intention is, it better be important.

Also have a somewhat spotless looking page would benefit by just being neatly filtered and organized. Making sure your “friends” can see it and you have easy access in case.

But back to trash talking, when you look at Facebook, you see more like and comments then you do for anything profound or insightful. Not quite sure, but I do have theories. Scenario A would be the obvious “hot girl” hypothesis where most of here contacts or her clique just likes it which goes back to the nerd/jock social structure from high school. After so many years, no one cares about you even if you were a physicist that has figured out the date of doomsday and you try and warn everyone. By the time you get on the horn, more people would’ve shared and “liked” pictures of bikinis and cute pussies (see what I did there?) more than you would receive in a lifetime. Second scenario follows the lineage of centuries of greed and fame. Everyone wants to be rich and famous. I myself would like my notoriety to be low. I am definitely not the type of person wanting to give autographs and meet fans en masse. Also the accumulation of wealth is not in a material way so if it sums it up, I am pretty unpopular by that point. Our world has really just been reduced to nothing more than those two, either one granting vast power to influence generations. The root now seems more of personal survival (money for myself) than mutual survival. There is some good in the world while some are motivated by personal gain. Good is good when nothing material is in it for you, even skills would be somewhat materialistically driven. Though my second guess, I would say blame society since we are all victims in this case.

Among other things, I treat cyberpsace as meatpsace society. Most of those lessons you learn as a child comes in handy here. Such things like:
-Don’t click on links from strangers (don’t take candy from strangers)
-If a stranger asks you something private, best to say nothing or back away.
-What sounds too good to be true, likely bad for you and your computer.
-Always look at the good and bad before deciding (Look both ways before crossing the street)

Usually the common sense stuff I sometimes question parents not necessarily teaching their children. As a former forum moderator, I always stress it before and after. Personal safety is important; risk may yield more rewards but bad situations can only get worse. No one is always watching and when you slip, you will fall and get hurt.

Posted from WordPress via Blackberry Playbook. Yeah, I’m too lazy to touch my computer…