Thursday, September 20, 2012

Are You a Sentimental?

What I mean is: how many emotions you cannot easily contain and those take over you when responding to a post, or when you are out of the blue publishing something?

Why do I ask you this if the article is supposed to be Social Networks related?

Well, let me ask you another question: did you know the term “Sentiment Analysis” is a buzz word on the higher hierarchical levels of organizations such as Amazon, Dell, Google, Microsoft; aside from Facebook and Twitter, and many others?

The main reason is that big corporations are trying to target their marketing based on the type of emotions we express when using Social Networks. The small and mid-size social media blogs and consultancy-type businesses and individuals are also implementing some kind of system to help them sell their own products and services to small fry, while trying to hit the jackpot in the process.
So, every time we post something like “I hate (insert cellphone company here)’s billing! They put me on-hold for 20 minutes and then I got disconnected.” Or something like “I love my new car! It’s great on gas, stylish and easy to drive!” All those words and expressions are being collected, analyzed and managed so that they can more easily know where they need to focus on improvements, or where to increase prices, for instance.

Being said that, know that Sentiment Analysis is still in its infancy, although making strides quickly.
For example, when we post a comment along with a picture so that we are being sarcastic, cynical or ironic; such as in “You gotta love our politicians.” And the pix depicts such person(s) caught in the act wasting our tax money, the technologies cannot simply differentiate the intention of our message… yet.

Or when we use abbreviations and/or emoticons, such as in “My neighbour’s dog died! :D" or “My neighbour’s dog died! :-(" or “My neighbour’s dog died! :-)". Same sentence, but different emotion shown. Even the slight change in order: “My neighbour’s dog… :D …died!” is still difficult for a computerized algorithm to decipher.

The main thing here is that, each and every one of your comments is being analyzed today. That’s why you start to notice a trend on the advertising they post every time you go to YouTube, for example. Based on your searches, posts, Tweets, and so on… all you interact with online while using their systems (Social Media and others) is there for them to target you.

There you have it. Don’t be surprised by what the type and amount of advertising you start experiencing on your main sites and how it matches your moods and ways to express yourself, it is all based on you.

Therefore, do not reply here with a negative comment. ;)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Fight is not on Facebook

The day is fast approaching.

Yes, you and I keep reading the tweets and posts and all those messages, images, and ideas. But the fight is not here where the screen stares at you: all of us in your circles know that. The fight is on the street.

Keep posting, sharing, liking and using these devices to contact your people. But realize that these Social Media pages are only tools that allow us to share the times and places where we can really manifest ourselves. Talk to all people you see on a daily basis: you don’t need to prepare a speech; a simple “I believe the best option is…” while you order coffee, or a “we need to talk to elders too…” when at your little one’s soccer practice, will do.

Action. On the street. Not here on the screen.

Talk to the rest of them, not everybody is connected all the time or at all. Camps, protests and manifestations are one way, but there are many others: the thing is to talk and, if necessary, shout.

Stop criticizing. Get up and start fighting.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Referee

While attending webinars and similar events about Social Media and the way we all take advantage of latest technologies, I noticed there is something that stands out again and again: what we post and mainly the way we post it tells lots about whom we are and what we represent.

Most Social Media presenters believe their audience is aiming to establish or grow their business and brand on the Web utilizing the latest available features. Therefore, they give advice on the best practices and the latest trends and tools to accomplish just that.
However, for the rest of us, there is not much advice they can or want to provide because it is precisely their business to focus on businesses.

If you are establishing your presence on the Web with Social Media tools, bear in mind your potential customers and existing clientele probably understand very well what you are posting; after all your goods and services are not foreign to their needs. Post anything and everything with as much freedom as if you are saying or writing a sales pitch with absolutely nobody watching over your shoulder. Do it as freely as if nobody will ever read it, and that will guarantee a flow of ideas that will certainly convey a great message. You can always come back to edit to make it look even better.

Conversely, if all you are doing is communicate with friends and family, the language you use, the images you upload and everything that will become public, shape your identity. Those postings also shape the perception people around have of you. All of them, not only the first degree acquaintances.
Rule of thumb: before sharing something you would consider offensive or out of place, think it twice. If you believe it can offend someone, it is very likely it will do exactly that.
Even if your friend has just posted a funny picture or comment, but that includes specific people you know will be affected, it is safer to simply leave it as is and where it is. Do not touch it.

Enter the referee: he or she can be someone you care about whose age is between eight and fifteen. Imagine that this person is listening or reading absolutely everything you are saying and posting. If the referee raises his or her eyebrow to something you intend to publish, it is certainly not a good idea to do so. There is always a place and time for everything; letting unconditionally everybody know about certain comments or images is merely not appropriate.
As with certain public displays on the real world, the fact is that doing something that is not illegal does not make it right, or morally correct.
You don’t need a warning from the ref every time you commit a fault, do you?

Choose your referee.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Internet Privacy, last part (for now, this is a recurrent subject)

These articles are compressed, a good discussion of these issues and subjects would need at least ten times more space to be better explained and discussed. Being this a blog, such small sample must give an idea of the many branches these topics grow.

Imagine you are at a conference or travelling on public transportation. Then, somebody starts commenting and asking lots of questions interrupting the presenter constantly.  Or one of the passengers starts misbehaving, annoying everybody. The presenters or other members of the travelling group might be tempted to call security, and perhaps that will happen, having to remove that person, forcefully.
Such scenes could be similar to when we spot a suspicious backpack left in a very public place. We will always be prompted to act and do something about it.

Now imagine there is another person in that conference or at the public transport not really calling attention, but planning something bad for the rest of the people around them. If the latter scenario is possible, then all attendees to the conference or travellers are suspects, right?

That’s one of the most invasive currents of thought behind governments and police departments to want to be watching over our shoulders what we do online. It doesn’t matter whether we are the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa or a very simple low profile citizen of the world. Our every move would be recorded and stored indefinitely. We would lose our online privacy at the very moment such a bylaw passed as law. Forever.

With the incredible amounts of data on the Web, and such records growing exponentially day after day, in order to implement a mechanism to track and store all we do online it would need to be very good and smart systems, controlled by not just one entity for the extraction of information to be really effective. Such withdrawal of individual evidence would take place only when necessary, and there would need to be warrants and orders, similar to the physical ones, for anybody to get access to our information.
In a way we are already in that position of letting people know about us: we post pictures, type statuses and send messages to those in our circles and acquaintances lists. No less, no more.
However, if there is a leak of data of any kind, then such information we trusted only to known friends and family members might be used by criminals, probably with disastrous consequences.
Being said that, if we allow governments and police to monitor activity, that might also mean less unlawful activity due precisely to more virtual police force deployments.

Although there would be more good than bad if we put all that in the scale of a better world, the possibility that harmful activity could results from our allowing of data to be collected and analyzed, although slim, would still exist. It is that low percentage of risk that bothers us.
 Simply put, no system is perfect, and it gets worse when many hands are mixing the dough. Human error is imminent.
There you go.

Me?  I would like to see more control, but not to the point that our online surveillance becomes something like a regime. I would trust such task to the global scientific community after a carefully and planned strategy is determined, but would be very much concerned if governments get too much involvement in the planning and surveillance process.

What do you think? Are you afraid to comment on this after reading the possible consequences?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Internet Privacy, second part

(Continued form InternetPrivacy)

This is a hot topic. Received some feedback here, via FB and thru other messaging systems. Thanks for taking the time to reply and comment on it. Hope you do it more often.

Apparently, there is some confusion and misunderstanding with regards to what the policing entities would be doing if we allowed them to watch our online activities.

To start, nobody will be fixating their eyes on a lot of monitor screens watching live what every one of us does online. The system would be something similar to those closed-circuit video surveillance cameras that allow recording and therefore can be used to check a particular event after it happened.
It would be similar to the way they analyze the audio and video recordings after a shop break in, or at a corner store or gas station incident; also there would be “black-boxes” like those on trains and planes that keep the main data on events sequences. Such records would be extracted only if and when needed.
Of course, there would be some intelligence attached to the systems too: monitors that would be able to analyze data traffic, identify and single out the origin of certain messages and attitudes to detect sex offenders, for instance; and obviously highlight the activities of spammers and hackers.

To continue, know that police already counts on significant power to search for criminal conduct on the Internet. It wouldn’t be that different than it is right now, only more expeditious and easier for them to manage warrants, for instance.

Now, in terms of everybody’s security, these policing entities would be able to act both proactively and reactively. The main advantage would be that criminal activity could be spotted sooner, evidence would be taken quickly and in a chronologically way; and warnings, tickets and warrants could be created for existing and would-be pornographers, spammers and hackers.
So, in terms of safety for all of us when using the Web, we could experience better peace of mind knowing that our children can be using computers, phones, tablets, game consoles and all those devices without becoming a target. For us, Spam certainly would be decimated too, and hacking activity would be greatly minimized.

Simply put, if we are not involved in any kind of negative activity on the Internet, we’d have nothing to worry about: the scenario could be compared to when we go to a nice beach town we’ve never been to and seeing a police element at every corner. We could certainly feel good about that or not even notice it if our behaviours don’t break the law. However, if we are there with not-so-nice intentions, then perhaps we would feel uncomfortable, nervous, or even threatened.

I’m not saying systems would be perfect or that monitoring us all is a good thing. In this particular article, I’m only pointing to the positive aspects of enhancing the Internet surveillance powers of police for all of us. Most other bloggers and news writers will certainly pen way more than these few paragraphs about how it will negatively affect us: it is simply easier to criticize, condemn and complain than to see the good side of things.
There will be plenty of time and space to cover the negative aspects too. In the meantime, here you have a few reasons to think about why such initiative could bear more good than bad.

Any other good outcomes you can think of?
If passed, which entities should be allowed the privilege to search what you do online?
Would you rather trust a private company instead of the government or police for doing this?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Internet privacy

I will go into detail later on the many implications it would carry to let governments and police departments to be able to track our individual activities online. In the meantime, I have a few comments and question for you.

While almost everyone protests or has something to argue, or at least comment, when we hear the news that our lawmakers have a proposal to allow governments to be able to eavesdrop on our online activities, current and past; we seem not to notice we are already creating a trail that anybody could be able to put together.

Not only police would use such traces if necessary:  already there have been cases in which people have been fired because their bosses found out they were posting their activities on the very days they reported as being sick. Divorces have been filed by the spouses that have found out email and chat conversations and histories between their ex-loved one and somebody else. There have even been cases that go to court in which a Second Life love or affair interferes with the real life… the implications are many and varied. Some of them are difficult to believe, and even more difficult to deal with.
But, coming back to the trail: do you realize that a lot of what you do on line is permanent (see Permanency) and has a date and time stamp attached?
That means that practically anybody can follow your on-line history. Are you one of those people that post practically everything around you at any moment and place? Do you allow your devices to automatically post your location at a particular time?
Is all that really good? Does it benefit you? Does it benefit anybody?

I’m not trained on anything related to police or private investigation, yet I know some people I could recreate their everyday activities with better accuracy than what a police investigator could have come with just ten years ago. Worse, a stalker or similar likeminded individual can do that too.

So, what would the real implications of allowing governments to be able to retrace our steps be? Aren’t your acquaintances so aware of our daily activities already?
Technologically, it is possible to log everyone’s actions through our devices’ addresses, applications and even coordinates. The ISPs and telecommunication companies we pay for those services count on tools that would allow police or any other entity know about our online activities very accurately, to the second.
However, what we seem to be against if precisely Big Brother watching over our shoulders. We seem to be content letting everybody else know what we want them to know, despite the fact that we are letting way more people than intended know about it.

Allowing police to monitor activities would help capture kidnappers, child pornographers, fraudulent transactions and many more criminal activities. It would be a matter of perhaps minutes as opposed to months of investigations and evidence gathering.

So, what exactly are we against when we hear about the possible imposition of such measures?
Where do you stand?
What is your take?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Immediacy and permanency

By now it must be clear for most of us that everything we’ve ever done using virtual Social Networks is there to stay. The fact that instantaneous messages are exchanged at such speeds, coming from every corner of the world makes even big companies shake with fear, some corporations are already dead; and the survivors are quickly changing their ways of production and technological methods in order to stay. If big businesses can’t make anything but adapt, what can we simple beings do?

Know that when using virtual Social Media everything stays: every word, every picture, every new group and circle creation, the uploaded videos, and absolutely everything that has been posted are there to stay forever. We can’t change that, but we can change the way we do things so that we never regret it.
Know also that messages, pictures, news, and everything else are there at the very second they are posted. These can be shared quickly and the rest of the world can see them within minutes. We all have heard or read about the viral tweets, pictures and videos that get millions of views in less than a day.

So, please know.
Before you post something that may affect somebody else or yourself: be informed and warned about the permanency and immediacy of such actions. It takes only a few keystrokes and clicks to do it, but a lifetime to accept the fact that it is done.