Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Social Networking Safety

I was reading an article on about some Internet scandal circling around Tila Tequila. Now, I don't really know much about her except that I'd like to look as good in a mini skirt as she does, but it got me thinking about how careless people can be in this age of the Internet and social networking

I think it's human nature for people to want to share information about themselves. I remember back in the BBS days, on one I used to frequent, we had a little location section that we could fill in where we were hailing from. We all tended to change it daily and fill it in with the days events, witty quips, or song lyrics. Now we have Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, LinkedIn and on and on. These sites are fun, and they give us all the perfect venue to connect, share and entertain each other BUT I really believe there are lines that need to be drawn, and information that should not be shared.

 Here are some examples of things not to post online:
  • Details about your location or where you're heading. This boils down to a personal safety thing. Don't post your address or telephone number. Even a tweet that says you're heading out for a burger on 41st street invites people to show up there. Now chances are you aren't a celebrity and you don't have a stalker, but why risk it? If you feel you need to tell the world about your culinary adventures, perhaps do so when you're safe and recovering from your food coma at home.
  • Compromising photographs of yourself and especially of other people. Think of how embarrassing it would be if your boss saw a picture of you passed out in a drunken stupor at a party. If you really don't care, at least don't assume your friends don't either. Ask permission before posting anything that might get somebody in trouble.
  • TMI! Yes, there is such a thing as too much information. Nothing gets me to unfriend somebody on Facebook faster than when they link their Twitter account and update every five minutes. It's not that I don't care, or I don't want to know details of your day, but I don't need to know every waking detail. Even if your friends don't mind, they'll eventually just start to tune you out which defeats the purpose of sharing in the first place.
  • How much you despise your job. If you want to keep your job, it's probably a bad idea to call your boss a douche bag on the Internet. I've heard stories of people even getting fired for posting too much information about their company online.
  • Conversations that should be private. If you have something you need to say to somebody that may be personal or confrontational in nature, call them or write them an email. You may think you're really making a statement by calling somebody on their BS in front of the whole world, but you're actually just making the rest of us uncomfortable.
Now chances are none of us will become Internet sensations, and our own personal additions to the online community will go mostly unnoticed, but why risk it? Put a little thought into the information you put out there for everyone to see, and make sure to monitor what your kids are doing as well. Common sense is something we learn, and as savvy as they may seem, they're more prone to making dangerous mistakes online than anyone else.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Instant messaging overload!

I've loved instant messaging ever since it came out. It's as convenient as having your friends and family in the same room with you, but less awkward if you want to walk around naked. I personally use AOL Instant Messenger or "AIM", Yahoo! Messenger, Google Talk, and Windows Live Messenger or "MSN Messenger."

They're certainly not difficult to install or set up, but with so many types of instant messaging services currently available, it can be cumbersome to keep track of people spread around different services. Not to mention it can be pretty taxing on your computer's resources to be running 6 different messenger applications at once. Just like our current economy, let's downsize!

There are quite a few instant messaging consolidation programs, so I'm going to focus on a few of the most popular. Also, let it be known that I do not get excited about things like smilies. I like my instant messaging software like my soul, black and void of emotion. OK that's not true, I'm chipper like puppies and kittens on a sunny day, but I still don't want unicorns in my chat window.

Pidgin: I have really liked Pidgin for years. It's very stable, and doesn't have too many confusing bells and whistles. It worked really well with the Jabber server (internal instant messaging service) I set up a few years ago for my last company. It was definitely the least glitchy of all we tried, so for that it gets high marks. On the down side, Pidgin only supports video/audio chat for Google Talk. They have said that support for other services is in the works, and when that's complete, I'm pretty sure I'll be sold because it's otherwise an outstanding application. Who are we kidding? I'm already sold. When I want to call somebody using my computer I usually use Skype anyway.

Meebo: Meebo is interesting because it's web based. Instead of installing an application on your computer, you log in to their website, plug in all your account information for your various messaging accounts, and they all pop up like magic. This is a great option for folks who are not allowed to install software on their work computers. That's right, don't let the man bring you down!

Trillian: This little guy used to be my favorite. It was the first application of it's type I had used. I'm honestly just not a big fan anymore. The installation process is full of sneaky installs, like really sneaky. They asked me once if I wanted to install it with the Ask Toolbar (I'm not going to link it because I consider it to be almost malware) so I unchecked the bubble...then they snuck it in there AGAIN at the end. That made me raise an eyebrow. It's certainly not a bad application, it's cute and bubbly. I try it each time they put out a new build for nostalgia sake, hopefully they'll hit the nail on the head again someday.

Now after you've chosen an application and installed it, don't forget to uninstall any messaging software it's replacing! The point was to subtract, not add! And remember, TALKING IN ALL CAPS IS LIKE YELLING. Don't do it.