Snapchat ends up settling with the FTC over privacy issues. The Boston Globe reported this year that the images being passed by the Snapchat app weren’t vanishing without a trace, as advertised.
The temporal nature of its content proved extremely appealing to younger Internet users, and now it turns out that Snapchat’s content is a lot more durable than anyone wanted it to be.
There were a number of ways that content could be copied, including taking screen shots of the app.
But wait, it gets worse
According to the article, not only was the content kept, but, “ Snapchat transmitted users’ location information and collected sensitive data like address book contacts, despite its saying that it did not collect such information. The commission said the lax policies did not secure a feature called “Find Friends” that allowed security researchers to compile a database of 4.6 million user names and phone numbers during a recent security breach.”
It was only 2013 when the company was offered a multi-billion dollar buyout by Facebook. They refused, thinking they could do better.
The FTC isn’t messing around. Per the article, “Snapchat will be prohibited from misrepresenting how it maintains the confidentiality of user information. The company will also be required to start a wide-ranging privacy program, a sort of probation, and will be independently monitored for 20 years. Fines could ensue if the company violates the agreement.”
Yeah, that’s gonna stink for a while.
There are a few morals to this story, I feel.
Don’t be greedy. Facebook’s paying billions of bucks! What were the owners of Snapchat holding out for? Their own country?
Don’t promise stuff you can’t deliver.
Don’t assume your users are so clueless that they won’t find workarounds. Never underestimate a determined user.
And, for the users, don’t assume your content is private unless you have absolute control over all security and privacy settings. And the best way to have that kind of control is, don’t put your content online if you want it to remain private.
I have recently been published, and one issue that comes up, time and again, is how people can go about supporting indie authors. In particular, friends and family who are far from the business of writing or social media or public relations or marketing or the like still want to provide a boost to their loved ones.
For the writers, who may feel strange suggesting or requesting such support, I hope this little guide can do just that. Instead of asking, perhaps they can simply point to this blog post.
Authors might get better percentages of the take if a book is in a particular format. If that is the case, and you don’t mind which format you purchase, you can always ask your friend the writer. While we always want you to buy the book (and a sale is better than no sale), if we have our druthers and there really is a difference, it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.
The #2 Way To Support Independent Authors
Once you’ve bought the book, a fantastic way to help out even more is to provide an honest review. Amazon, Smashwords, and many publisher sites provide a means of reviewing novels and other creative works. Be sure to review where you purchased the book.Why? Because then you can be listed with verified purchase next to your name. This adds considerably more credibility to your review. What should you say in your review? If you loved the book, say so. If it was a decent read but not your cup of tea, say that as well, as it’s honest, fair, and remains supportive. After all, not everyone loves the same thing. If you’re not in the demographic group that the work is aimed at, then that’s perfectly fine. You gave it the old college try and that’s just fantastic. The longer the review then, generally, the better. Specific references to events in the book, without giving away spoilers, are really helpful. E. g. something like: I loved the character of ___. She was believably vulnerable.
What if you hated the book? Should you lie? Absolutely not – and, I might add, don’t lie even if the author has specifically asked for positive reviews only (that is an unethical request, by the way). If the book is truly awful (I’ve read books that have made me want to burn people’s computers, they were so horrible, so I know exactly where you’re coming from), then you have the following options:
Don’t post the review at all, and say nothing to the author.
Don’t post the review at all, but mention it to the author. Be prepared for, potentially, some negative push-back, in particular if that person specifically requested just positive reviews. You can sweeten the pot by offering some other assistance (see below for other things you can do to help).
Post a short review. Reviews don’t have to be novel-length! You can always write something like Interesting freshman effort from indie author ____ (the writer’s name goes in the blank). There ya go. Short, semi-sweet, and you’re off the hook. Unless the book was an utter snoozefest, the term ‘interesting’ can be appropriate. If the book was absolutely the most boring thing you have ever read, then you can go with valiant or unique (so long as the work isn’t plagiarized) instead of interesting. Yes, you are damning with faint praise. But sometimes faint praise is the only kind you can give out.
Post a negative review. Be prepared for your friendship to, potentially, end. Is that the worst thing, ever? I’m not saying to be mean. Don’t be mean and don’t take potshots at a person’s character or personality. This is about the book and not about your relationship with the person (although it can sometimes turn into that. But keep the review about the creative workonly). But if the friendship means more to you, then seriously consider options #1 or #2 instead.
Furthermore, many sites have star systems. Adding stars (even a single star) is helpful as this signals to readers that there is at least some interest in the piece.
The #3 Way to Support an Independent Author
Post and/or share the links to either the creative work or the author’s website, blog, Facebook Author page, or Amazon Author page, onto social media. This method is free and anyone can do it. This means tweets, Facebook shares, Pinterest repinnings, Tumblr rebloggings, clicking ‘like’ on Instagram, voting up a book trailer on YouTube or adding it to a playlist, mentioning the book in your status on LinkedIn, or sharing the details with your circles on Google+, and more. Every time you provide these sorts of social signals to social media sites, the content is delivered to more people. Without spending a dime, and barely lifting a finger, you can provide a great deal of help.
The #4 Way to Support Independent Authors
Be sure to follow your friends’ Amazon Author pages, and their blogs. Hit ‘like’ on their Facebook Author pages and follow them on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. There are agents who give more weight to indies who have larger social media followings. You can hate the book but still follow the author.
You can also work some magic in person. Show up to any signings or discussions, even if you just drink coffee and don’t participate. Ask for the book at your local library or bookstore. Read the paper version in public (train stations are really great for that sort of thing). You can also talk to your friends, or email them about the work. Consider your audience, and don’t just spam your friends, but if your writer pal has written, say, a Christian-themed love story, then how about sending the link to your friend who has a son studying to be a pastor?
If your friend is local, try contacting your local paper and asking if they’d do a profile on the writer. They can always say no, but sometimes reporters are hunting around for short feel-good locally-specific blurbs. It never hurts to ask.
The #5 Way to Support an Independent Author
Here’s where it gets to be a time investment. Help them. A lot of serious authors ask questions about all manner of things, in order to perform proper research. Can you help with that? Do you have personal experience, or are you good at Googling? You can also act as a beta reader. Beta readers read either the entire draft or a portion of it or sometimes just the first chapter or even character bios. Here’s where you can be a lot freer with criticism, as this is all private. Is the mystery too easy to solve? The character names are confusing? The protagonist isn’t described clearly? The scenario is improbable? Then tell the writer. This isn’t correcting their grammar or their spelling (although it sometimes can be). This is giving them valuable feedback which will help them become better.
As always, be kind. This is your friend’s baby, after all. But if you can’t tell the difference between Susan and Suzanne in the story, then other readers probably wouldn’t be able to, either. Better that that is fixed before the book is released, than afterwords.
Final Thoughts on How to Support Independent Authors
The life of a writer can be a rather topsy-turvy one. You’re high on good reviews, and then you get one bad one and it depresses you. You write like the wind for weeks, and then you edit it and it feels like it’s garbage. You get writer’s block, or life gets in the way.
Sometimes the best thing you can do, as a friend, is to just listen, and be there.
The Before Time, Where There was Weeping and Wailing, and Gnashing of Teeth
One aspect of my career transition has been writing a lot more.
And I found that I’d truly missed it.
Sure, I had typed tons and tons of stuff before. But a lot of it was such thrilling topics as documenting queries, or making lists of terms used by public service officers. It was rarely topics with wit, or style. And I certainly wasn’t allowed to make up any of it.
The Like Button is intended to dovetail beautifully with its presence on Facebook itself. According to Facebook, “The Like button lets a user share your content with friends on Facebook. When the user clicks the Like button on your site, a story appears in the user’s friends’ News Feed with a link back to your website.”
Facebook certainly makes an effort to make it easy for even novice programmers (and people who can really only do drag and drop) to place a Like Button on their own sites. The premise is irresistible: you add the Like Button, people “Like” your own site, and that information is transmitted back to Facebook and to the Likers’ friend lists. Then their friends, who may not have know about you at all, suddenly do. They, hopefully, check you out, Like you, and the process is repeated on and on, ad infinitum, or at least in theory. With enough intersecting friends with enough non-intersecting additional friendships, a few Likes could translate into dozens, if not hundreds, or even thousands, of new people who know about you.
The Share Button
The Share Button is apparently a bit more difficult to implement than the Like Button, and Facebook appears to be moving away from it, in favor of the Like Button. Instead of providing easy to select decisions, they have only provided copy and paste coding. For people who aren’t sure where to put coding, or how, or how to alter and customize it, this is a virtually impossible hurdle to surmount.
Commenting on the Share Button also seems to be disabled. Facebook may be phasing it out but you may occasionally see it out in your travels around the ‘Net. It won’t go completely away any time soon. Plus, it seems to be better-supported by Google Analytics, although that appears to be an app which may or may not be fully endorsed by Facebook.
Here’s where another company you can link your page to your event pages.
Suggest to Friends
This is basic information such as the company’s location.
This basic click information, including the number of Likes and Views.
Friends Who Like the Page
People Who Like the Page
Fairly self-explanatory, except this includes people you are not, personally, friends with.
This goes back to adding a page as a favorite, and shows which company pages your company has favorited.
I’ve found adding events to be hit or miss. Not everyone RSVPs, and not everyone shows up even if they’ve said yes. However, it is more exposure and it will bring your page up to people as the event date rolls around. Even people who are clicking “No” are still looking, at least a little bit. Use with discretion and don’t overdo this. Not every activity is an event, and not everyone should be invited to everything. That’s just plain annoying.
Here’s more detailed information, including the company’s address and its business hours.
Fairly self-explanatory. Of course not everything is worthy of discussion, and you cannot track this that well (versus posting a blog and looking at click metrics via Google Analytics). But it is another way to engage the people who Like your business.
Blogs need not be included but I, personally, like this feature a lot. This is using an app called Networked Blogs. It allows for your blog posts to be linked directly into your company’s Facebook stream. The downside is, people might just read your blog on Facebook, versus on your site. But that seems to be the only downside — the upside is more blog readers and more interest in your company. And reading the blog offsite is not significantly different from people reading it using an RSS feed.
Fairly self-explanatory. Add notes like you would on your own personal page. E. g. these are almost discussions, but the responses are relegated to subordinate comments versus the kind of back and forth that comes from the wall or the discussions page. This is, admittedly, a nitpicky distinction without much of a real difference. I would, though, suggest that you not use the Notes section for blogging. Get a blog through WordPress (yay!) or the like and do it that way. The Notes section is a rather poor substitute for that.
Fairly self-explanatory. If you’ve got videos uploaded, they can show up here. This is not the same as linking to a video that is hosted online elsewhere.
Go to Edit Profile and there is an option for Added Applications. Scroll down to see options or to see more (not all of the available apps are listed on the first page). The available apps change so I won’t go into detail on them. You need not add any apps but, like I’ve mentioned, Networked Blogs is nice to have.
There is more to Edit Profile than just adding apps. However, this is an other area that can change a lot. It’s a place to access the ability to change basic information and the look of the page, plus manage the page’s administrative staff.
I was inspired by this post in Angela Connor‘s blog. If you don’t know Angela Connor, I urge you to check her out; her blog is extremely insightful and is one of my favorites.
Her ideas make a great deal of sense, and I think some of this is why the Blizzard forum experiment in real names for users was such an immediate and egregious flop.
The ‘net, like it or not, is for many people a place of masks. You pretend to be younger and thinner than you are. You pretend to be unmarried. You pretend to be a Klingon. Or you’re a teenager and pretend to be an adult. Or you pretend to be the other gender or richer or lovelier or more conservative or whatever.
The masks can be freeing to many — perhaps they were freeing when the ancient Greeks donned them while performing “Oedipus Rex” for the first time. I think that there is more of a place for them than perhaps we’d all care to admit. There seems to be a value to being able to spread war paint (or lamp black) on one’s face, or wear a Halloween costume.
This is not the same as our reality. It is related but not identical. The librarian who goes out for Halloween dressed as a dance hall girl wants to be known as someone who takes risks (and maybe foolish ones, at that), but when the morning after rolls around, she’s back in the library helping others do research.
This kind of anonymous commenting allows for something like this. The sympathetic guy who’s really seething inside gets to call people out, bully and be an all-around racist jerk (I have worse names, but don’t wish to besmirch my blog), and then surf to a different site where he can chat up the ladies with his sensitive New Age guy demeanor. And then when the time to log off comes, he goes home and kisses his wife and plays with his children. And this is all one guy.
To comment openly through a full, correct name (usually) medium like Facebook would be to cut off the dance hall girl, the racist jerk, the ladies’ man and any number of other secret selves in favor of a drab and ordinary world. Even on a news site, which is pretty much the definition of drab unless there’s some sort of a hot story, the jerk, the dancer and the Romeo all want to be free.
But we shouldn’t take their opinions as seriously as the real people because, even though those personae live in real people’s skins, it’s the real people who vote, marry, pay taxes, work, make the news and are members of our real society.
The trouble is telling them apart and knowing which one is real.
Quinnipiac Final Paper – ICM501 – Creative Obfuscation
Internet identity, reputation, and deception in the online dating world. Truth and little white lies on the Internet.
Several weeks ago, when participating in class, I used the term creative obfuscation. The idea behind it was (and still is) that people of course bend the truth or cover it up, or they lie by omission. Some of these lies are more egregious than others.
For my final paper, I decided to look at what it all means with reference to Internet dating. And boy, was there a lot of fodder! Here are some excerpts.
For many people these days, social media is wrapped with identity, as identity is, in turn, intimately wrapped up with social media. It is often a daily presence in our lives. As Julia Knight and Alexis Weedon discovered, online life and self are increasingly just as important as offline life and self. “In 2008, Vincent Miller’s article in Convergence recognized in our ubiquitous and pervasive media the essential role of phatic communication which forms our connection to the here and now. Social media has become a native habitus for many and is a place to perform our various roles in our multimodal lives, as a professional, a parent, an acquaintance, and a colleague. The current generation has grown up with social media and like the 10-year-old Facebook, Twitter too has become part of some people’s everyday here and now.”
 About 39% of the world is online, according to Internet World Statistics. This includes just fewer than 85% of North America and over 2/3 of Europe and Oceania.
 According to Pew Research, in 2013, 63% of Facebook users visit the site daily. Just under half (46%) of Twitter users visit that site on a daily basis.
Unlike offline reputation, online reputation can be categorized and quantified. For sites attempting to preserve and promote civility, but which cannot or will not adopt a real-names policy like Facebook’s, reputation scores can sometimes alert other users to an individual’s tendency to be either helpful or abusive. As AS Crane noted in Promoting Civility in Online Discussions: A Study of the Intelligent Conversation Forum, “Moderation in combination with reputation scores have been used successfully on the large technology site Slashdot, according to Lampe and Resnick (2004). Slashdot moderation duties are shared among a group of users, who can assign positive or negative reputation points to posts and to other members. Users who have earned a sufficient reputation rating are allowed to participate in moderation if they wish. Meta-moderators observe the moderators for abuse and can remove bad moderators, or reward good moderators by assigning a higher point value to their votes.” In Slashdot’s case, it would seem that good behavior not only is rewarding in and of itself, but it also provides a reward in the form of being granted the ability to police others’ behavior.
For those who bend the truth on Facebook and other social media websites, some of the consequences are unexpected ones. For example, a ten-year-old child who claims to be thirteen will, in five years, be considered eighteen on the social networking site. This will alter her privacy settings automatically, allowing images to be seen by everyone, including pedophiles.
Although it is fairly easy to bend the truth when composing an online dating profile, an in-person meeting will expose the lie to all, and the liar will lose social capital and likely never make it to a second date. More problematic is when a person’s sincerely developed identity does not jibe with their appearance or their birth characteristics. Differences between online verbiage and offline appearance might not have an intentionally malicious origin, and it is entirely possible for online daters to, through ambiguity or poor word choice, appear deceptive and untrustworthy when they may be anything but.
But regardless of the reason for an untruth, online daters care about their reputations and their online and offline appearances. What others think matters to them. Much of that is directly related to the fact that the object behind the use of an online dating site is to meet; the mission is the date. Setting up the date for failure or the loss of face is not in online daters’ best interests and most of them act accordingly in order to assure success or at least prevent and minimize failure and the loss of social capital.
Personal identity matters in the online world, and it is a heady brew of inborn traits, learned and attained characteristics, and identification, desire, and preference. For the person presenting their identity and showing this admixture to all and sundry, what it means to be them, what they think of as the ‘self’, is what is cobbled together from potentially thousands of measurable and nonquantifiable data points in order to present a full picture of their personality. For the recipients of these messages, the potential dating partners and perhaps even more permanent mates, the choice is whether to read or listen to these many messages and accept all or some of them, even if they conflict with or downright contradict the evidence that the recipient can observe or otherwise gather independently.
You are who you were at birth, who you have become, and who you claim to be, and who you think you are. But that does not mean that anyone has to believe you, accept you, or love you.
White Space is not your Enemy by Kim Golombisky and Rebecca Hagen
White Space is not your Enemyby Kim Golombisky and Rebecca Hagen is a beginning design book. I purchased it because I definitely need assistance with design. While I (at least I think I do) have something of an understanding of which color goes with which, it is sometimes difficult for me to get my act in gear when it comes to making something look good. Seeking some inexpensive professional help, I turned to this book.
Apart from the obvious title, the book offers tips on color combinations, font selection, focal points and even how to prepare a document for a professional print job. The chapter on design sins really resonated with me. I have seen poorly designed advertisements (both online and offline) and websites, and have never really been able to adequately articulate just why they were so hideous. Now I can.
The exercises in the back of each chapter were, I thought, somewhat superfluous. However, I did find myself beginning to look at designs with a more critical eye. For example, I noticed a print advertisement where the background photograph was of varied colors. Some were light, some, dark. The print, however, was pure white, and cut horizontally along the middle of the photograph. This would have been fine, except the copy crashed straight into a white space, so some of the print was invisible. Which part? The company’s name. Epic design fail.
Another extremely helpful chapter was the one on the “works every time” layout. This layout is all over the Internet and all over print media, and for good reason. It is, essentially, a full width photograph or other graphic across the top third of the screen or page, with the remaining two-thirds divided into two vertical columns for text. A cutline (caption) is placed directly underneath the visual (if appropriate; some visuals don’t need a cutline), with a more prominent headline directly below that. Break up the columns into paragraphs and beware widows and orphans (one or two short words on a line). Place tags (these aren’t Internet meta tags), which are the logo, company name and small nugget of information such as the URL or physical address, in the lower right-hand corner. Round it all out with generous margins all around. Voila! An instant beautiful (albeit somewhat common) layout!
If nothing else, that chapter is more than worth the price of admission.
Creativity cannot, truly, be taught. But the peripherals around it can, such as how to gather ideas and nurture them, and how to place those ideas together in a coherent format. It’s like teaching pottery and smithing but not cookery: you get enough so that you can set the table, but not nourish anyone.
For that, you need to be an artist. And that, sadly, cannot be learnt in any book.
In my travels online, I have seen blog posts that were under 50 words long. I have seen blog posts that were a good 10,000 words long. Tweets, of course, are limited. But there have been plenty of Pinterest pins with just an image and nothing else. Or they’ve got enough verbiage behind them to seemingly rival War and Peace. So, what’s ideal? Is there any science behind it?
How long should blog posts be? Buffer likes blog post titles to be six words long (oops, this blog post’s title is too long). Interestingly enough, the blog post where I got the inspiration for this blog post from also has a title that is too long.
Interestingly enough, Buffer says that blog posts are best at 1,600 words in length. However, Yoast (the fine makers of an SEO plugin I use for my own blog posting) provides good SEO credit for blog posts that are at least 300 words in length. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but one thing is for sure – those fifty-word blog posts just plain are not long enough.
How big should a Facebook post be? Buffer says forty characters. Keep it short, snappy, and to the point. According to Lee, Facebook posts that exceed forty characters degrade in engagement as they get longer. Not to put too fine a point on it, but that 700-word screed you wrote? Better make that a blog post instead. On Facebook, people will scroll right on by.
Here’s a trick to get around the forty-character wall – links show the title and some text, and you can always change these. Or add an image with some text. But don’t go nuts! It is very, very easy to hit and exceed critical mass.
How long should a Google+ post be? Buffer puts the figure at sixty characters. After that, you’re hitting a second line of text. How do you get around it? The idea is similar to Facebook – you have a little room to play with images and even a short subtitle.
How long should an effective Tweet be? Buffer says to limit it to 71 – 100 characters, in order to provide some space for people to comment before sending out a modified tweet (MT). Keep hashtags at six characters for maximal impact. Yes, we all know that people sometimes use hashtags as a bit of wry commentary. Tumblr in particular seems to inspire hashtags like #DudeLooksLikeALady (and not just for fans of Aerosmith). But the best length hashtag has six characters.
TL; DR – Check out the chart, and the cited article, for more information. The research is sound, and fascinating, and the article was a hell of a find.
(someone just like you, perhaps), what sorts of judgments would you make? What seems off? What’s being suppressed, which should be promoted, and vice versa? Is the picture clear or fuzzy?
The gist of that article is, take control of your information, keep it as a uniform brand and check it every month or so. The corollary to this is one from Shama Hyder Khabani, which is, essentially, don’t spread yourself too thin. Concentrate in only a few places.
Absolutely agreed. When I google my own last name, 502,000 hits come up. And, fortunately, my own website is at the top (Yay, SEO!). My two Facebook profiles (I have one for work) come up as fourth and fifth. Then comes my LinkedIn profile, and then Twitter. Then there’s my Examiner profile and then the last entry on the first page of results is a link to my profile at Go Articles.
Putting my last name into quotation marks yields only 2,800 hits. Most of the same usual suspects come up on Page One of the results although one place called Jobs In Social Media comes up. Classmates is at the bottom of the page. But nothing is too weird or scandalous.
To my mind, checking and rechecking every single month might just be a bit excessive. Is there a need to keep your profile accurate? Sure. Flattering, or at least not damaging? Yes, particularly if you are looking for work. But to keep it sterile and perfect, as you scramble to make it perfect every moment of every day? Eh, probably not so much.
I would like to think (am I naive? Perhaps I am) that potential clients and employers will see the occasional typo and will, for the most part, let it slide unless the person is in copyediting. I am not saying that resumes, for example, should not be as get-out perfect as possible. What I am saying, though, is that this kind of obsessive and constant vigilance seems a bit, I dunno, much.
Will the world end if I accidentally type there instead of their on this blog? And, does it matter oh so much if I don’t catch the accident immediately?
I mean, with all of this brushing behind ourselves to cover up and/or perfect our tracks, and all of the things we are leaving behind, where’s the time and energy to make fresh, new content and look in front of ourselves?
To me, there is little joy in reading a blog post or website that looks like it was put together by someone who’s barely literate. But there is also little joy in reading sterile, obsessively perfect websites and blog posts. A little imperfection, I feel, is a bit of letting the ole personality creep in there. Genuineness — isn’t that what the whole Social Media experience is supposed to be about, anyway?
I refuse to believe — I hope and I pray — that a bit of individuality isn’t costing me potential jobs or the company potential clients. And if it is, then that saddens me, to feel that, perhaps, there is a lot of lip service being paid to the genuineness of Social Media but, when the chips are down, it’s just the same ole, same ole.
Genuineness is great. One you can fake that, you’ve got it made? Gawd, please, say it ain’t so.