Friday, September 25, 2009

Protecting the Social Commons

I was invited to be a team leader in a new marketing effort based on "traffic generation". It was a well prepared and well documented offer. Maybe it was an opportunity to make quite a lot of money. I said no. We've seen this all before. Most of these people have little or no impact. But the tools are changing as our ability to communicate across the social networking commons improves.

Remember the time when robots harvested email addresses from web sites and we all got hundreds of emails about things that had no connection to us. SPAM.Today we protect ourselves with spam-filters, but the attack, changed forever how email is used.

The problem with spam, was that it destroyed the value of a perfectly good and very cheap tool. Email space was a common, and pirates tried to steal it from us. Largely they SUCCEEDED. In terms of personal communication of an important kind, I no longer use email. Email for me is reserved for easy group communication.

Some of the new personal communication is on Facebook, a little on Ryze. Only business matters on LinkedIn and Twitter. Skype has become a key tool. In each of these new social networking spaces there is a communication common, free of unwanted noise.There are tools in each social network that so far have kept that space relatively free of "noise".

People are planning to invade our communication common with marketing messages.One guy's set up 100's of interconnected blogs, and thousands of bogus twitter accounts. I think I discovered someone creating hundreds of bogus Ryze accounts too. The plan is to invade your privacy, and to profit from social media.

There are lots of people, in the social media common, who would like to,and expect to, profit from being a member of the Social Media space, on Facebook, Xing, LinkedIn, Ryze and elsewhere. That's fine. There are social ways to achieve that, and there are destructive anti-social ways to do it.

Our commons is protected in two ways. The administrative rules of Ryze, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are part of the defense. But users themselves need also to understand first that the common exists, and second that it needs to be defended.

There is a long inglorious history about "the Commons". The rules are never strong enough, and social action is too weak and too late. Eventually the commons is invaded and destroyed. This battle is being fought today. Our task?To remain alert, and to do your best to protect what you have.

John Stephen Veitch
The Network Ambassador
Open Future Limited - You may comment privately to John S Veitch using this form.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Using a News Reader

I've been a heavy user of the Internet for 18 years. I kept a hand written journal for 24 years before that. When blogging first became possible I was a reader, although not a writer in the beginning. If we wanted to follow a blog we subscribed to an email notification, which is one reason why I get so much mail.

In July, 2009, here in Christchurch NZ, I collected data about how people really use the Internet. I asked people to give me NUMBERS, no opinions, about their Internet use. One surprising number was that of 90 people who responded, only ONE wrote a blog, and he had not updated for some time. Even more surprising was that only THREE people read blogs. Those numbers seem incredibly at odds with what most surveys tell us. The reason for that is in the methodology. Both sets of data are correct. e.g. "80% of Internet users read blogs." The question was "In the last 12 months have you ever read a blog?". My data says "3% of Internet users read blogs" and my question was "How many blogs did you read in the last 7 days". 97% of my respondents replied NONE.

Another startling statistic. Not a single person in my sample uses an RSS Reader. Now at the time I didn't use a reader either. I had FeedDemon on my computer, but I never opened it. Installed but never used in 2+ years. For me the old email system worked OK, and I'd never bothered to change. But now I'm interested, why don't people use RSS Readers, or News Readers? Essentially because they don't know about them.

RSS stands for really simple syndication, which explains exactly nothing. It's a formatted text feed, with integrated pictures and video, so in a reader it presents like an electronic newspaper. Depending on the source, you get a heading and the first 250 words or so, or you get the full feed. Clicking on the heading opens the original source in your browser. News readers have lots of tricks for searching for information and saving the very best, and for discarding the rest.

Every Internet user should as part of his or her daily routine open a News Reader. That news reader should be subscribed to RSS Feeds from people or information sources that interest you. You should be getting the FEED, and not the EMAIL. It saves a lot of TIME. Also because it's so much easier to do, you'll actually end up reading much more, and being better informed.

What Feed Reader should you use?

My knowledge here is suspect. I've only ever used FeedDemon to any extent. I've had a play with Google Reader, and that seems OK too. Here is what a few hours work tells me. First of all there is a fundamental choice; do you use Google or not?

Google Reader and variations.

Google Reader is widely praised as being easy to use and with lots of tools and shortcuts to suit many needs. I found in my short time using it that I quickly adapted to it's style.

FeedDemon 3.0 is a standalone programme that synchronizes with Google Reader. If you are at home you use FeedDemon because you prefer it's style and functions, but if you are somewhere else, all your feeds are also available on Google Reader.

NetNewsWire 3.2 (Mac Users) This is the Mac version of FeedDemon.

Feedly is a Firefox Browser addon that links to Google Reader.

Other Options:

NewzCrawler 14 day free trial - US$24.95

Amphetadesk is a free, cross platform, open-sourced, syndicated news aggregator - it obediently sits on your desktop, downloads the latest news that interests you, and displays them in a quick and easy to use.

Bloglines (Web Based) Voted Best Blog/Feed Search Engine by the Search Engine Watch Awards in 2005

John Stephen Veitch
The Network Ambassador
Open Future Limited - You may comment privately to John S Veitch using this form.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Email for Social Networking

One of the things that worries many people is the "overload" they seem to get on the internet. TOO much mail, far too much mail.

There are two key techniques for dealing with that. One is the secondary email account. The other is to use RSS feed instead of getting mail.

Today I'm talking about that secondary email account. You can almost certainly have a free account, if you accept a little advertising. If you choose to pay as little as US$10.00 a year you can probably get add free mail and some other useful services too.

When I look at the options there seem to be FOUR. Which one you'll choose will depend quite a bit on how you feel about Microsoft, and Google, and Yahoo. I've been very happy with my Google service, but yes it does concern me that Google does "everything" and does it "free" but it's also collecting huge amounts of personal data. One day, that might go bad.

Here are the options:

Windows Live ID
Windows Live ID gets you into Hotmail, Messenger, and Xbox LIVE. I'm a Microsoft avoider, so I don't use it. But if you are using Windows Live for Chat, then this is a natural option for you.

I've been a Gmail User for about 4 years. I didn't like it in the beginning, but it's ability to search and come up with that old lost letter is remarkable.

Yahoo Mail
I once had a Yahoo Mail account. Perfectly functional. Today they are offering email with "apps". Some of you might like this option.

FastMail is a fourth option. In this case there's a very limited free version, and for quite a small number you can get upgraded services. If you are really concerned about the big companies controlling all the data, this is your choice.

How to use your new account.

When you join social networks use the secondary email address.

Almost all the mail coming to you in Social Networks is non-personal, it was written for a group of people to read. So if you do, or do not, read it, isn't mission critical.

Create folders or labels (Google) to separate the mail into groups. You use filters, to separate the mail as it comes in. I'll tell you how to do that if you need help.

Go through your mail in your personal email account. How much of this is non-personal? For most people the great bulk of their mail never need to be read. So open letters like that, find the subscribe and unsubscribe links. Remove your personal email address and re-subscribe with your secondary email address. It might take a few weeks to complete this task, but slowly you'll get your mail under control. That will be especially true if you turn some of your mail off, and get an RSS Feed instead. I'll talk about that next time.

John Stephen Veitch
The Network Ambassador
Open Future Limited - You may comment privately to John S Veitch using this form.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Protecting Your Computer from Attack

OK, so we're starting from scratch here.  You've got a new machine connected to the Internet and the machine vendor already has installed an anti-virus programme.  Of course that's a subtle attempt to sell you on an upgrade.  You might have anywhere between a month and a year to decide what to do.  

If you are a low volume user, and the things on your computer don't include important business files.  It's quite likely you can install a free anti-virus programme.  The recommended programme tends to change over time, but at this moment for home use, AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 8.5.406, is being recommended.  AVG do sell an upgrade version at a very similar price to other vendors, about US$40.00 a year.  "AVG Free Edition is the well-known antivirus protection tool.  AVG Free is available free of charge to home users for the life of the product."

Perhaps the most common Anti-Virus software I've seen is Symantic Software's Norton. The current version is Norton AntiVirus 2009, available for a 15 day free trial and then US$40.00 a year.  There is also Norton Internet Security at the slightly dearer price of US$60.00 per year.

If you feel you need a strong upgraded product, Kaspersky Internet Security 2010, from Kaspersky Labs, is recommended.  This has a price tag of US$50.00.  There is a slimmed down Antivirus version for US40.00.  

For many years I've been a user of Trend Micro's Antivirus software.  Currently I'm running Trend Micro Internet Security 2010, which is for sale at US$50.00 a year but I brought a two year deal for US$80.00.  The version I use has Antivirus protection, and web site protection and safeguards against exposing certain sensitive data online.  There is a cheaper Antivirus only version for US$40.00 per year.  My version upgrades itself about three times a day. I've never had a problem since installing Trend Micro.

Trend Micro also have a product called "Housecall" that will check your computer for viruses and malware online.  I've used it several times to sort out a problem for a friend.  

Make your choice.  It's your responsibility to make sure that your computer in not infected by a spam-bot or some other form of malware.  Of course the possible loss of sensitive data about you or your passwords or your banking ID, should also concern you.  Any of these programme's should give you a trouble free experience.  I'm a heavy user and I've no hesitation in paying for the service I enjoy.  Simply choose the programme you want, click on the download button, and save it to your hard-drive.  It's best to have a folder called "downloads" for this purpose.  

Once the programme is downloaded click on it and it should install itself.  You'll need to allow the programme to check all your existing files, a process that can go on in the background, but may take several hours.  You won't need to pay for the programme until the trial period expires.  

John Stephen Veitch
The Network Ambassador
Open Future Limited - You may comment privately to John S Veitch using this form.