Archive for July, 2010

The Pervasion Of Spam

It’s worth thinking about, just how much spam is floating around the Internet these days.  With the threat of various malevolent software attacks, it’s probable that half of what you come across has ties (direct or indirect) to viruses or worms.  However, a lot of stuff is just there so that someone can try to draw attention to themselves or to something that they’re trying to push – albeit very sloppily.

Most email systems have had spam filters for several years now, in order to help people to avoid sifting through all the unwanted emails that are sent out like a net to see what can be reeled in.  However, that’s not the only place you’ll see spam.  Odds are, if you have a blog of your own, you have to cope with spam comments, too.

Even social media sites like Twitter and Facebook aren’t immune, though on Facebook it comes more in the form of friend requests from people you’ve never met and who may not even exist.  That brings home the problem with spam, though:  It’s not the fact that it’s everywhere that’s the problem, it’s the fact that even the most benign examples aren’t actually out to help you with anything.  Instead, they’re there because someone wants something from you.

And so they go around, like thousands of barnacles drifting through the currents of the Internet, attaching to whatever seems a likely way to make a buck or just sending out runners to whomever they’ve gotten a little contact information on – sometimes purely by accident, even.  That’s why it appears in such large quantities all over the place.

Everyone knows spam is annoying, and most people don’t even bother to check it out when it comes up.  It just gets deleted, because we already know that it’s not worth our time to look at it.  This pervasiveness is a good demonstration of what’s so wrong with it.  It’s taking up space to try to steal your attention, bandwidth that could be better used for just about anything because the attention sought isn’t gained.

Which really begs the question: why do people bother cranking out so much spam, since most people are only going to trash it as soon as they get it?  Largely, it’s because not everyone does.  Spam has been proven to be a fairly effective marketing strategy, as long as the ads can come up with interesting subject lines.  Unfortunately, that means it’s not going to stop any time soon.

All we can do is work to improve spam filters, refuse to send it out ourselves, and get rid of it as soon as any reaches us personally.  In the meantime, don’t get too bothered by its presence.  That just gets you thinking about it more, which is what the spammer wanted in the first place.

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Government and Google: Two Peas Not in the Same Pod

Connecting all the Dots

Not long ago, the Internet went ablaze with Google having the ability to show direct satellite images of your home. Many people ran to the popular site to get an eye full of this “new” technology that was just released to public. Fast forward months ahead and you can now get a full view of everything that is currently happening on your street. Exciting and extremely scary at the same time.

Google uses street-vans to collect images around the world. These voyeur friendly vehicles cruise your local neighborhoods to get a first hand view of everything that is going on to make your Google mapping experience that much cooler. Let’s try another fast forward. It’s now revealed that the site was also using these vans to collect information via wifi. The safe and encrypted network that all your systems are running on.

Google recently addressed issues concerning the safety of their networks when it was found that Chinese computers hacked into their systems. If Google’s system can be easily infiltrated, just what information could hackers actually have access to?

Fox News brings up these questions and more in their recent online piece Is National Security Behind Google’s Wifi Spying?. The outrage of many political leaders and the slow response of the national government is all questioned throughout the article. What does this mean for the future of the Internet? Many people are all for a safer America, but at what cost? If the offices at Google, a World Wide Wonder, can easily be hacked into, how safe is the free wifi connection on your iPhone?

The government has longed wanted to have more control over the Internet dating all the way back to the Bush Administration. According to an recent investigation by The Washington Post, summed up in a series of articles titled Top Secret America, many Google employees have access to  and secret clearances with the government. The power of the government seems to be steadily increasing as they make us feel more safe and free by securing our borders and pushing through our computers’ back door.  One can only imagine the force that can be drawn when you combine the intelligence of Google and the power of the federal government. Just sayin’.

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Evolving Internet

Whatever you may thing about the changes that are taking place, it’s pretty clear that the Internet is evolving.  Some of use still remember what browsing was like when Netscape was the dominant browsing tool, before new sites like Yahoo! And Google came along to offer a way to search across the whole Internet according to keywords.  Now, some of those early search engines are gone, and social media are beginning to take their place as the new way to find everything.

It wasn’t two years ago that Google released its own browser for public use, even as sites like Facebook and Twitter were growing into the dominant ways to keep up with friends online.  Now, these two have made it possible to find all kinds of people and subjects within their services, beyond one’s friends, so that they are developing as more than just a place to hang with friends.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the future, because it’s very clear that the Internet isn’t what it was ten years ago, let alone twenty or so when it was begun.  The programming for Facebook started out as a site where people compared Harvard students in regards to who was more attractive.  Now it’s the dominant social media tool on the World Wide Web.  If a single website can change that much in seven years, there’s no way to know what the Internet will look like ten years from now.

It might actually be easier to guess what it will be in fifty years or more.  Science fiction has often proven a reliable guide for when people’s innovations would take them later on (everybody’s heard of Captain Nemo and the Nautilus, for one).  Stories like Star Trek may be a more solid indicator of what the Internet will eventually become than the estimations of the most astute computer tycoons.

Whatever the eventual result, everyone is certainly in for an interesting ride in the meantime.  In spite of what some people may say, the Browser Wars are not over, and there’s no telling what new possibilities will appear next year for that or any other part of the Web.  Even the Wikis might grow beyond what people use them for right now.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

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What is Your Facebook Page Saying About You?

From Staff Writer Lawrence Evans.

This is an eye-opening article that should be read and thoughtfully considered before posting about your breakups or your previous employer:

A stroll on Facebook will give you all the latest updates from tons of online friends around the world. Many of the comments, posts and updates at times can seem inappropriate and full of information that the world doesn’t need to know. Remember the days when you actually had to be a college student to even be allowed on the site? Now your grandmother and your five year old sibling are requesting to be friends with you! Are they really ready for your updates?

Think twice before pushing the update button. People other than your “friends” might be seeing what you’re broadcasting to the world. Many jobs are using social media as a way to hire new employees. According to a 2009 article by Oregon Business Report, an estimated forty-five percent of employers use social media sites to monitor job applicants. Not only does this process bring up many legal factors to consider, it also plays a major part in the issue of ethics as well. How do we govern ourselves online? Now that the same tools that were constructed to be forms of entertainment are also being used to decide whether are not we get the careers that we went to school for, will it change the way we approach and use the site? Should we show our true faces and continue using clever lingo safely behind our computer screens or is it now OK to follow a certain code of ethics?

The news feed section of facebook gets more outrageous as the days pass. Now that it may start affecting your job, will you choose to tone it down?

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Google and Apple Apps: Real Time Search More Prevalent

The App wars between Google and Apple have taken new heights, and that’s to be expected seeing how these two fierce competitors are producing a tech-crazed revolution that has swept all corners of the globe. If you’re not familiar with what an App is, it’s simply this: they are small software applications designed specifically for iPhones, some smart phones, and more recently, the Droid. These applications can run anywhere from free to thousands of dollars. There are even apps that show you how to create apps. It’s an incredible thing that has taken on a life of its own, and anyone with basic programming knowledge can make one.

Whether you’re looking for directions to a local restaurant or you need a flash light in really dark places, there’s an app for that. The possibilities literally are endless, but what does it mean for us? Simply this: apps are a new thing to move us further into the future and it is changing the way the Internet is used. It’s also making the Internet a little more obsolete each day (sounds like an oxymoron but bear with me). When you can have the power of the Internet and certain nuances of the Internet at the tips of your fingers, then what’s the point of having the Internet in your home in the first place.

Is there a clear winner in the App wars between Apple and Google?  Currently, no; but more to be discovered later. Both produce apps for all walks of life, while the operating systems run off the same channel.  Apps are a science and they’re only as good as the system it’s used on. Whether it’s a Google App or an Apple App, one thing’s for sure: they’re still going at it with one another to get the edge, all the while designing Apps that are useful to followers (no matter what phone it’s on).

In a previous blog I mentioned real time search on smart phones is becoming more and more relevant and that remains to be the truth and nothing but the truth, considering both these phones are creating apps to be search friendly, giving you alerts when something happens. In an information-crazed society, this is huge.

Information at the speed of light is a powerful thing and in a hustle and bustle world, it becomes far more important to have information you can have access to without waiting to get home.  It goes beyond that, though. The App wars aren’t just based on “friendly” competition; it’s about creating user-friendly apps that are useful to society that can be accessed from the convenience of XYZ.

Google’s Apps appear to be headed toward more longevity since the dominant company’s rule a large portion of the Internet. Is there a correlation between real time search results and the name Google, or more specifically Google Apps?  Yes. It would be foolish not to think that’s not the case. Prepare for inaccuracies in search results.  These Apps very well could change the way we search permanently—and dare I say which hours we should search.  That could be a stretch, but given the multitudes of search avenues (including particular Apps), we can’t rule out that idea.

Apple appears to be losing the App race (brought on by bad phone parts press) but name recognition alone will get it back on track.  That’s not to say Google has the leg up.  Relatively new in the App making world, they still have some catching up to do, but like any successful business, they will find a way to catch up.

Will we see a winner soon?

No.

Will we see a change in how we search from now on?

Yes.

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The Internet is the New Medium of Free Speech

It’s interesting to consider Google’s problems with the censoring enforced on it within the borders of China.  On the one hand, they agreed to the Chinese governments requirement that restrictions be placed on what they could show and do.  On the other hand, enforcing external restrictions on a search engine seems to be contrary to the very nature of the Internet.

Webster’s Online Dictionary defines the Internet as “A computer network consisting of a worldwide network of computer networks that use the TCP/IP network protocols to facilitate data transmission and exchange.”  That means it is all about communication between people, which many hold to be a natural right possessed by everyone.

Even though Bill Gates aptly pointed out that obeying the laws of a country is the only way to ensure that you can do business there, it’s also important for a country to make sure that its laws make that a desirable thing.  The Internet is, at its essence an exercise in freedom of speech, so one has to wonder just how far it can be restricted without stepping on people’s rights.

That doesn’t mean that you have the right to plot a murder online just because of free speech – what’s wrong is still wrong and isn’t protected.  What I do mean is that it’s worth thinking about what exactly China wanted to censor that is leaving Google thinking that it’s not even worth the effort of operating there.

The actual morality in the matter can be refined to a razors edge that no one could walk, but Google is not some small business that has to worry about losing a few thousand dollars of business.  They’re willing to give up millions over this, so it’s safe to conclude that it would cost them millions more just to stay in business there.

The really interesting thing, though, comes from the fact that Google is the single most powerful search engine online.  That means that China is willing to risk cutting its Internet services basically in half just to stop the spread of what it wants censored.

The whole situation is a very strange balancing act that the rest of us may not understand in full until years after it’s all over.  We might not even know how it touches the rest of us until then, all because of how the question of Free Speech affects and is affected by the Internet.

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Google’s High Impact in China

“We launched Google.cn in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits of increased access to information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor more results.”- David Drummond, Google.

Google may be rethinking their decision to open their search engines in China. The company has been the World Wide force on the Web and expanding their reach to China only seemed natural.  The Chinese government allowed Google to open their site in China as long as one major rule was followed—some of the search results will be censored. Fast forward four years later and visitors of Google.cn are being redirected to an entirely different site in Hong Kong.

What does this mean for users in China? Possibly no more Google. We previously addressed what the internet would possibly be like without its’ most popular search engine, but users in China may actually start feeling the ramifications of not having the use of the site. It’s much bigger than getting results from a search engine. Consider not being able to use the thousands of applications loaded on our smart phones. The ones that tell us where to turn, cool places to eat and the most exciting spots to party in. Many of these apps that we live by use Google maps and information from Google to run. This will also close down Google.cn’s doors, causing a number a different lay offs. What does this mean for Google? The loss of millions, which is actually chump change to the company.

The Chinese government may be sending a bigger message to companies that are not currently open within their borders. Complying with their laws may interfere with new companies setting up locations in China which would even mean a missed opportunity for more jobs and revenue in China.

China users may soon get the first indication of what a Google-less Web look likes. Until then, I’m sure the search engine will think of innovative ways to recoup and keep the rest of the world searching!

“You got to decide: Do you want to obey the laws of the countries you are in or not? If not, you may not end up doing business there.” -Bill Gates

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Being Found

Being found online is important, but being found on the right search engines is even more important.  There are a lot of search engines out there, most of which are only used under specialized circumstances.  It doesn’t matter if your site is easily found on any of them unless they actually pertain to what you do.

The only ones that matter are those that are intended for what your website covers and major engines like Yahoo! and Google.  So long as you’re easy to find on them, you’re fine.  Otherwise, your site is in real trouble, because the only people who will be going to it are those who already know about it – that means little or no new business will be coming your way.

That’s where SEO comes in, actually.  It makes sure that your website works with the search engines that you need to be visible on.  That way, the only limit to how much business you see depends on your own efforts to satisfy your clients.  Since that’s the way it should be, you need to be absolutely sure of what search engines you need besides Google, if any.

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Search Overview

There are dozens of search engines out there that see a lot of use – there are hundreds, depending on what you’re looking for.  Some of them are actually pretty good at helping you find specific things.  However, most people don’t use them, either because they don’t know about them or because they aren’t powerful enough outside the specific subjects for which they’re intended.

When it comes to looking for absolutely anything, there aren’t a lot of engines that can really compete with the “Big Three” of Yahoo!, bing, and Google.  They’re easily the most powerful search engines available, which is why they’re the dominant search providers on the internet.  They search pretty much everything, even entries that are specifically placed on other search systems like YouTube (which is partly a search engine for finding specific videos and categories within the clips posed to it).

The tricky part is that lots of sites include search engines as part of what they do, but can’t reach beyond their own limits.  Only search engines dedicated to that purpose can, which is why they are generally the only ones people think about.  However, anyone who wants to do some powerful searching needs to include the “lesser” engines of places like YouTube, Facebook, and so on.

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White Hat and the Morality of Code

Most people don’t realize it, but a lot of what goes on in your website depends on the source code and meta tags that are used.  Don’t misunderstand and think that this means that your content isn’t important – it’s absolutely vital – but the heavy lifting, so to speak, all goes on behind the scenes, where most people never see it.  So, the code used has to have a code of morality, too.

Here’s the thing: someone who’s good at writing HTML and meta tags can basically lie to Google and other search engines, and get a different rating than they should have.  This might mean they’re further up the list than they should be, but it might mean they get put onto lists where they shouldn’t be included at all – Black Hat SEO firms love that sort of thing.

White Hat companies, by contrast, will make sure that your code is completely legitimate and doesn’t include anything to try tricking the search engines.  Instead, they make the whole website work fluidly with the spiders search engines send out to figure out where, and under what categories pages should be listed.  Each line of HTML involved is written just right, so it makes everything easier to inspect and come to an accurate decision.

They can even make your site more user friendly that way.  Since work on optimizing the site is all about making it more relevant to prospective clients, making it easier to use is a serious possibility when the source code is being worked on.  That’s why it’s important to make sure that you get a reliable, White Hat SEO company to handle everything you need done.

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